The Royals have an under the radar player coming through the minors in LHP Cristian Catillo. Castillo has quietly won several major awards and even skipped a level going from Burlington straight to Wilmington. The 2016 Appalachian Pitcher of the Year winner held his own being named an All Star in the Carolina League last year. Castillo had a great first half before slowing down in the second half. It’s no surprise Castillo slowed down as you could attribute this to doubling his professional innings total in 2017. Castillo threw 141.2 innings in 2017 compared to just 72.0 in 2016.
Castillo is a 6’0” lefty from Mexico. Castillo was a little older when he signed and is now 23. Castillo pitches from the extreme left side of the pitching rubber and is able to generate a tough angle for hitters with his smooth release. Castillo has a four-pitch mix throwing the fastball, slider, curve, and change. The change is really good and has good arm-side run and sinking action making it a swing and miss pitch for RHHs. The slider has a lot of tilt to it and Castillo often throws it as a backdoor pitch just nipping the outside edge of the plate. If a hitter can’t stay back, he will have a hard time as he tries to pull this pitch and rolls it to shortstop. The curve has more downward movement. Castillo doesn’t throw with high velocity but he will work in the low 90s and gets outs. This type of pitcher has to have solid control and Castillo generally does.
We saw some big regression as Castillo’s season wore on last year with a lot of his numbers going up in his last ten starts. Castillo went from a top 10 ERA in the Carolina League ERA to finishing at 4.13. Castillo also saw his WHIP, BB, and hits allowed increase quickly during the last month of the season and his strikeout rate drop. Again, that isn’t a big surprise considering he doubled his inning total and skipped a level. Castillo had what you could call a rough start in 7 of his last 10. This year I hope to see those numbers drop back toward the short season stats he put up as he adjusts to the longer season and is able to hold his velo and stuff.
Perhaps the biggest change we saw for Castillo with his skipped level was how RHHs hit him. They went from .191/.230/.327 in 2016 at Burlington to .289/.353/.437 at Wilmington. I think a lot of that was he used the CV/SL more than he should have and it’s tougher to get that fastball by those more advanced hitters. I would like to see Castillo use more of his good change this year in Springdale. Lefties actually decreased their numbers against Castillo going from .271/.338/.314 in Burlington to .239/.292/358 in Wilmington. The only number there that went up is the slugging percentage and it really had nowhere to go but up after being so low in 2016.
Against top 20 prospects from teams in 2017 Castillo was solid. Those guys had 179 PAs against him and hit a meager .212 with 13 extra base hits and a K% of 17.3%. The BB rate was an outstanding 6.1%. This is a good sign.
Castillo is very calm in his demeanor on the mound. He doesn’t seem to get rattled or panic much. There are times when Castillo pitches backwards and there are times where he doesn’t. It seems like he always starts guys off differently and frequently attacks hitters differently the second and third time through the lineup.
There are definitely some concerns with Castillo because of the big drop in his strikeout rate from Burlington. Castillo dropped from 9.125 K/9 to 6.7 K/9. That is a drop from 25.1% of batters striking out to 16.8% of batters striking out. Again, this is more likely due to doubling his innings and skipping a level than a drop in stuff.
From watching video I would compare him to Jose Quintana without the plus curve and high strikeout numbers, to Bruce Chen in his prime, to Jason Vargas with more velo, or another finesse lefty of your choosing. Hector Santiago might be the best comparison. Castillo is a flyball pitcher with a GB/FB ratio of around 0.60 for his career. If Castillo becomes one the aforementioned guys, it will be a solid addition for the Royals rotation.
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