In this ongoing series that will last most of spring training, we’re going to look at each player that will be in Major League camp with the Cincinnati Reds. Each post will have some information on the player. There will be some background information, profiling, projections, and more. To see all of the posts in the series, you can click here. Today we jump further into the 40-man roster, looking at starting pitcher Luis Castillo.

Luis Castillo’s Background

Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco in 2011. Acquired by Cincinnati via trade in January of 2017.

Born: December 12, 1992

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height/Weight: 6′ 2″ / 190 lbs

Years of MLB Experience: Two.

Luis Castillo was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the San Francisco Giants. He played in their farm system for two seasons before being traded in December of 2014 to the Miami Marlins. In July of 2016 he was traded to San Diego, but was then traded back after Colin Rea showed up on the other side of the trade injured. Six months later he was traded to Cincinnati in the deal that sent Dan Straily to Miami. He would make his Major League debut a few months later after dominating Double-A and being called up directly from that level to join the Reds rotation.

Luis Castillo’s 2018 Season

Coming off of a strong 2017 season as a rookie, Luis Castillo had a lot of expectations in front of him. And then the first month of the 2018 season happened. When April ended, the right-handed pitcher had an ERA of 7.85 through six starts and 28.2 innings pitched. Opposing batters were hitting .304/.366/.539 against him. From that point forward he was pretty much what everyone was expecting from him. In the final 25 starts of the season he threw 141.0 innings with 36 walks and 141 strikeouts. That came with a 3.57 ERA and hitting had a .232/.286/.408 line against him. The poor start to the year placed him as a league-average pitcher by the end of the year – even though he was much better than that for much of the season.

Luis Castillo’s Playing Career

An older than usual signing out of the Dominican Republic, Luis Castillo didn’t make his professional debut until he was 19-years-old. He spent the first two seasons of his career in the Dominican Summer League, which is rather unusual for a future Major Leagues when combined with the fact that he was 19 and 20 during those seasons. In 2014 he came stateside, pitching for Augusta in the Giants organization in Low-A. As a reliever he posted a 3.07 ERA in 48 games with 66 strikeouts.

He was moved via trade to the Miami organization following that season and they moved him into the rotation in 2015 where he split the year between Low-A and Advanced-A, posting a 3.20 ERA in 107. innings with 94 strikeouts on the season. In 2016 he made 24 starts between Advanced-A and Double-A with the Marlins organization, throwing 131.2 innings with a 2.26 ERA. He joined the Reds organization following that year. In 2017 he began the year in Double-A Pensacola, posting a 2.58 ERA through midseason, and was then called up to Cincinnati where he barely skipped a beat. IN 15 starts with the Reds he had a 3.12 ERA in 89.1 innings with 98 strikeouts.

Projecting Luis Castillo for 2019

The three projection systems all seem pretty much saying the same thing for Luis Castillo and his 2019 season.

ZiPS Projections | Steamer Projections | Marcels Projections

How could Luis Castillo fit in Cincinnati in 2019?

It would take something unexpected to see Luis Castillo not spend his season in the Cincinnati Reds rotation from day one. He’s already been named as one of the pitchers in the rotation by manager David Bell. Short of an injury or very unforeseen performance, he should remain there all year long.

13 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    Here are a few other 2018 stats for Castillo: xFIP 3.69, SIERA 3.85

    Some underlying stuff: From 2017 to 2018, Castillo’s K% fell from 27.3% to 23.3%. That’s a large drop. His fastball velocity fell by 1.5 mph.

    Castillo was extremely unlikely to repeat his 2017 BABIP of .247 and therefore his 2017 ERA was unreliable. In 2018, his ground ball rate fell sharply from 58.8% to 45.9%. He gave up a lot more hard contact and line drives.

    Breaking a pitcher’s performance down month-by-month or other small splits doesn’t help much other than creating the narrative you want. You can manipulate arbitrary endpoints (and there’s nothing more arbitrary than turning a page in a calendar) to find just about anything.

    Here’s an example: There really wasn’t that much difference between Castillo’s first 11 starts (5.34 ERA, 4.04 xFIP) and his next 10 starts (5.26 ERA, 4.00 xFIP). It was only his last ten starts of the year when he excelled.

    The last five months of 2018 (3.57 ERA) were not what was expected from Castillo. People expect 3.90 ERA, per the 2019 professional projections.

    You have to look at larger sample sizes and more reliable statistics than ERA to get a real sense of how pitchers performed and what to expect. Castillo’s SIERA was 3.85 last year. That’s the kind of data that causes the prediction services to project his 2019 ERA at 3.90.

  2. Steve Mancuso

    Here’s a further demonstration of arbitrary endpoints and narratives. In 2018, Luis Castillo made 31 starts. If you break his ERA down into calendar months, you get this:

    April 7.85
    May 3.48
    June 6.75
    July 2.25
    Aug 5.57
    Sept 1.09

    Not sure what that says other than Castillo was good in odd numbered months. See how lousy one-month of ERA is at telling you anything reliable? You could look at any one of those months and have no idea Castillo was a true talent 3.90 ERA pitcher.

    Now suppose we broke Castillo’s 31 starts into 5-start blocks. That would create six blocks with one start left over. Suppose we assigned that extra start into the final block. Here are the ERA/xFIP breakdowns:

    1: 6.51/4.11
    2: 4.56/3.92
    3. 6.08/4.24
    4. 4.62/3.79
    5. 2.70/3.10
    6. 2.23/3.22

    Again, ERA is all over the place. Which block would you look at to know Castillo was a true 3.90 ERA pitcher? None of them. On the other hand, the xFIP blocks are a lot more clustered around 3.90. But still, even with xFIP a month is too small of a sample for a pitcher to say anything.

    Finally, instead of assigning the extra start to the last block, suppose we assigned it to the first block, giving the first block 6 starts and all the rest 5 starts:

    1: 7.85/4.46
    2. 2.83/3.61
    3. 6.49/4.20
    4. 3.96/3.80
    5. 4.18/3.37
    6. 1.09/2.87

    The point is to compare this split with the previous one. All we did was change one start along the way. The results in ERA are extremely different in terms of spinning narratives. Look at the difference in ERA in the two block 2s and block 5s.

  3. Optimist

    Barring injury, or real disaster, he gets 30 starts, correct? Real disaster with this staff would likely need to be 5.00 ERA/4.50 xFIP, correct?

    If he makes any progress, and if the new staff has any effect (coaching/calling games/analytics) shouldn’t we expect a slight improvement, and much better than a disaster? Have to believe he’ll be at least a league average #3, and with a bit of luck a solid #2. Still could become an ace or near-ace.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Yes, you could point at the new pitching coaches and hope for improvement. Or maybe he picked up something valuable in his arsenal in the last part of last season. It’s reasonable to think that Castillo could be come a true talent 3.50-3.60 pitcher. His fastball and change-up are terrific.

  4. Indy Red Man

    Castillo is basically a 2 pitch pitcher. He will show a slider once in a while but thats about it? Romano same thing. Mahle last year….same thing. I remember Mahle K’ng a guy with a beautiful changeup towards the end of the season and thinking “Where has that been all year?”.

    Good teams with solid organizational coaching will groom young guys to come up with 3 solid pitches and show a 4th. The Reds guys are mostly 1 pitch short and have been for years? I think its a matter of a lapse of coaching in the minors and/or drafting unpolished players along with being forced to rush kids up to the bigs before they’re fully ready to succeed. There is something to be said about failure is the best teacher!

    • Matt Wilkes

      Castillo has four pitches and came to the big leagues with three. Two fastballs with totally different movement, a changeup, and a slider. He picked up a two-seamer in the middle of 2017. But he still throws each one at least 15% of the time. So to say he’s only a two-pitch pitcher isn’t accurate at all. At least not in the same sense as Mahle and Romano, who each threw their fastballs over 65% of the time last year.

      That said, it’d be great to see Castillo improve the slider and start using it against lefties more often after they knocked him around last year. If he could bury that at the back foot of left-handers regularly, it would give them a different look than the changeup, which moves away from them.

  5. Shamrock

    I know the Reds have improved our starting rotation dramatically this off-season.
    Even though it appears the professionals expect him to be average/middling, I really hope that he still makes the team.
    I can see him settling down a bit and potentially being an Elmer Dessens type who could hold down like a #4 or #5 starter spot in MLB for at least another 3 or 4 years.

    • Shamrock

      Elmer Dessens, lol
      I meant to say Jose Rijo (brain fart)

      • CI3J

        How the heck do you confuse Rijo with Elmer??

      • Matt WI

        You are talking about Castillo right, Shamrock? I’m doubly confused. Rijo was not a #4 or #5 guy. Dessens was a more apt comparison if that’s where you’re aiming for him to end up.

  6. Shamrock

    Forget my little blurp.
    Rijo > Castillo > Dessens
    I hope Castillo makes the club this year. I can see him doing something similar to Rijo in going to a different team and “putting it all together”.
    (he’s not just another Ariel Hernandez)

    • Matt WI

      He would have to need Tommy John or go all Rick Ankiel to not be on this roster this year. That’s not really even a question. He’s in this rotation. Who would beat him out? Finnegan? Big Sal? Maybe Dallas Keuchel… then we’re talking!