When you think about the potentially elite starting pitchers there are a few names that come to mind. You can argue that names like Shane Bieber and Patrick Corbin are already in the Top 10, joining Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Walker Buehler. But would the Reds’ Luis Castillo be in the discussion? If he’s not, he should be coming off this type of performance:
226 Strikeouts (10.67 K/9)
79 Walks (3.73 BB/9)
55.2% Groundball Rate
The skills appear impressive, but in order to crack the Top 10 he needs to be able to not only maintain them, but improve upon them (especially in terms of his control). Let’s take a look:
His 15.9% SwStr% was impressive and he maintained the strikeout rate all season long (a 10.23 K/9 in July was his “worst” mark). The key was the increased usage in his changeup (26.37% in ’18 to 32.45%), which is his dominant strikeout pitch (Whiff%):
- Changeup – 27.49%
- Slider – 20.42%
- Fourseam Fastball – 9.85%
- Sinker – 6.64%
Of course his ability to get swings and misses on his slider as well gives him a pair of pitches to generate strikeouts, and that makes his elevated mark all the more believable.
His 55.2% mark in ’19 was a significant leap from his 45.9% in ’18. Maybe it was the change in pitch usage, allowing his pitches to play up that much more (71.53% GB/BIP on his sinker, for example). While there were a few blips along the way, like his strikeout stuff he was fairly consistent with his groundball rate:
- First Half – 56.3%
- Second Half – 54.1%
While there could be a small regression, it’s a skill we’d be willing to bet on.
This is the big question facing Castillo, but his split is telling (BB/9):
- First Half – 4.50
- Second Half – 2.76
Just consider his 2.4 BB/9 over his minor league career (and 2.60 mark in ’18) and it’s easy to say which mark is closer to the truth.
200.0 IP, 16 W, 3.47 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 229 K (10.31 K/9), 64 BB (2.88 BB/9)
It all comes together for an impressive projection, and one that he could even outperform. Let’s not forget that he posted a 2.29 ERA in the first half (before regressing to a 4.78 in the second half), and while he isn’t going to maintain a .224 BABIP or 83.2% strand rate it does show the potential upside. While Castillo may not be considered by many as a SP1 entering the season, that’s the type of potential he has.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference