Jose Castillo had a great rookie year with the Padres in 2018. He should emerge as a vital member of the bullpen as he displays a lot of positives on the mound. Here is a better look at the pitcher.
On December 19th of 2014, the San Diego Padres set into motion a three-team trade in which multiple pieces were sent to both to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals.
Headliners in the trade included Wil Myers landing in San Diego and Trea Turner eventually landing in DC. A little-known, left-handed 18-year-old pitcher from Valencia, Venezuela was part of the deal for the Padres.
Jose Castillo, 18 years old at the time of the trade, was an international signee bonus baby who signed for $1.55 million out of Venezuela. Nicknamed “Big Dude”, he stands an imposing 6-foot-5 and 246 lbs. He utilizes every ounce of that frame in his power arsenal.
Today we will be taking a look at Castillo’s PNO (Positives/Negatives/Outlook) as we continue to go through the entire Padres’ roster.
Castillo attacks hitters with a power arsenal, starting with a four-seam fastball that ranges from 95-98 mph. He is adept at using the pitch both north and south in the zone. The left-hander also has a sharp tilting slider in the mid-’80s that comes from the same arm slot, giving him another plus-pitch to get hitters to chase. This is evident by his strikeout percentage of 12.21 over 38 1/3 innings.
His introduction to MLB was a great example of his dominance. When facing the heart of the Cincinnati Reds’ order, he proceeded to strike out the side against All-Stars Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, and outfielder Adam Duvall. His power stuff creates very awkward swings due to the same arm slot for both of his power pitches. This “tunneling” allows him the ability to attack hitters from both sides of the plate equally, which makes him a very useful LHP out of the pen. Left-handed hitters hit an abysmal .133 off of Castillo. Right-handers didn’t fare much better, batting .189 against him.
Refined Control/Change Up
To go along with the aforementioned stuff, he comes with a level of control and command that is uncommon for a 22-year-old reliever. Over a total of 38 1/3 innings, he only gave out twelve free passes for a very impressive 2.82 BB/9. The ability to limit free passes while demonstrating a high strikeout rate portends to an even bigger role in the back end of the Padres’ bullpen leading into the future. He needs to continue to work on a changeup, which would provide another weapon against hitters in critical situations. It would also give hitters another pitch to think about and keep them honest against the heater or slider.
Quite honestly, his body of work during the 2018 season was one of the best rookie relief campaigns in recent memory. He carried over his brilliant work for Venezuela during the WBC and continued it til the end of the season in the Padres’ pen. One thing of some possible concern is the 22-year-old’s already large frame getting any bigger weight-wise heading into the future. I’m sure the Padres have him in a program to stabilize his conditioning and to keep him in top shape moving forward. It’s not the end of the world for a reliever to not be an athletic dynamo, but better conditioning can definitely lead to a longer and more productive career and keep you out of the trainer’s room. He already has a history of DL stints, including a hamstring strain this past season in the show.
With Brad Hand being traded last July and Matt Strahm vying for a place in the starting rotation this spring, Castillo has put himself in position to be the lead horse from the left side coming out of the pen. With Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen under control for one and two years, respectively, and both possible trade targets this offseason and beyond, Castillo has a place in the back end of the pen for what looks like many years to come. Fire balling lefties who can get both left-handed and right-handed hitters out consistently with high strikeout rates have incredibly high value. This is evident by the value the Padres extracted from the Cleveland Indians for Hand and the amount of money Andrew Miller just secured from the St. Louis Cardinals ($12 million AAV). When all is said and done, the December 2014 trade that brought Castillo to the Padres could have a very different complexation if he ends up giving the team six more solid campaigns in high leverage roles out of the pen.