Perusing around the Philadelphia Phillies blog world yesterday and this morning, you see passing mentions of the young pitcher the team lost in the Rule 5 Draft yesterday to the Chicago Cubs. The move garners no grousing; all teeth remain decidedly ungnashed. And that’s when the loss of Lendy Castillo is mentioned at all.
Does that mean the Cubs didn’t get themselves a gem yesterday? It wouldn’t be called a diamond in the rough if it were sitting on a desk. But, it certainly isn’t sexy, and Phillies fans aren’t worried about losing Castillo for good.
Or maybe they’re just not as obsessively tied to their middling prospects as we are.
So, who is this young pitcher, Lendy Castillo?
Well, for one thing, he’s only barely a pitcher. That is to say, he’s been pitching only two years. Plucked by the Phillies out of the Dominican Republic four years ago, Castillo was a promising young shortstop with a heck of an arm. The problem? He never put together the hitting thing.
He took immediately to pitching, putting up a 2.35 ERA in 65 innings between rookie ball and low A in 2010. He struck out 65, and walked just 26. In 2011, promoted to A-ball, Castillo moved to the bullpen, and again was great: 2.54 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, and 46 Ks in 46 innings (kid apparently has the uncanny ability to strike out exactly one batter per inning). Once again, he showed promising control, walking just 16. On paper, you can see why Jason McLeod and the Cubs’ scouting department would gravate toward Castillo.
And scouts like him in person, too. He’s got an easy delivery with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s, and he’s got decent size at 6’1″. He’s not described as “polished,” but between the fastball and “the makings of a solid breaking ball,” Castillo’s upside is as a back-end reliever in the bigs.
If he were a Cubs prospect, I’d probably unreasonably hype him. But he’s not a prospect – he’s gotta go from the low minors to the bigs in 2012.
Rule 5 picks have to stick on the selecting team’s 25-man roster all year (including at least 90 days active (and then they all seem to come down with a mysterious arm ailment on day 91)), so the Cubs’ only hope to keep Castillo is to work him in limited duty out of the pen. He’ll have Spring Training to show what he can do, but it’s a long way from A-ball to the bigs, even for a reliever.
It’s easy to see why the Cubs were willing to take a chance on Castillo, but that’s all it is – a chance. A small one.