jesus castillo and erick lealWhile opinions on Tony Campana’s trade value ranged wildly from “none” to “UNTOUCHABLE!,” the truth was always going to fall somewhere in the middle. To our surprise yesterday – and to the continuing credit of the front office – it looks like the Cubs were able to wrangle value closer to the latter end of the spectrum than the former.

For Campana, the Cubs received two Venezuelan pitching prospects, each of whom is 17, and each of whom pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year. Each of Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo is a right-handed pitcher, and the 2012 season was each pitcher’s first professional year after being in the 2011 international signing class. Each is very intriguing for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, let’s look at the signing bonuses. When it comes to international prospects under the age of 19 and with fewer than two professional years of experience, I tend to think the signing bonus they received is reflective of the general scouting opinion on their prospect status. In other words, the better the bonus a kid received, the better prospect he probably is (until he’s got many years of stats at higher and higher levels under his belt, and we can evaluate him a little more objectively).

Although the 2011 signing period was not subject to the new signing restrictions, which recalibrates our expectations for what constitutes a “high” signing bonus or a “low” signing bonus, I can say with confidence that each pitcher received a decent bonus last year from the Diamondbacks. Castillo got $250,000, and Leal got $75,000. Those levels are definitely commensurate with “legitimate” prospects, and are sufficiently high to suggest multiple teams were interested in each pitcher back when they were signing. That Castillo figure, in particular, is very interesting, and suggests he was a very well-liked prospect. He was Arizona’s highest priced international signing that year. (And, from the look of things, Leal may have been the second highest.)

Next, although they can lead you astray, it’s worth at least examining the stats these guys put up last year. Leal, for his part, was absolutely dominant in the DSL: 2.44 ERA, 6.36 K/BB, and 0.986 WHIP in 70 innings. He was just about as good as it gets in the DSL, which is never a bat thing. But temper that excitement: when you see pitcher stats like this in the DSL, it’s usually the sign of a very polished pitcher, but is not necessarily indicative of his upside. A pitcher with a decent fastball and a good offspeed pitch can shred the inexperienced hitters in the DSL. I suspect that’s what happened with Leal. Still, he had only just turned 17 when the league began, and the average age in the league was 19 years old. Leal could pitch this year in the Arizona Rookie League.

Castillo’s numbers weren’t as impressive: 5.40 ERA, 1.586 WHIP, and 2.41 K/BB over 46.2 innings. But, while Leal was merely “young” for the league, Castillo was “mega young.” He pitched the whole year at just 16, and was essentially tied with a couple others for being the youngest player in the league. Castillo is likely to repeat the year in the DSL, which is not a negative in the least.

If you’re not already intrigued, Baseball America’s Ben Badler offered some insights on the prospects, and it’s more goodness. First, some of what he had to say on Castillo:

He used to play soccer, and his athleticism is evident in his smooth delivery, which he repeats well for his age. He has a long, loose arm stroke, a long stride and gets good extension out front. He threw in the mid-80s when he signed, but he now touches the low 90s and has a good changeup for his age, though his breaking ball is still a work in progress. Castillo did post a 5.40 ERA last year, but if he were born a week later, he wouldn’t have even been eligible to sign until July 2, 2012, so he’s an intriguing arm for the Cubs to take a flier on.

And a portion of his comments on Leal:

When Leal signed, he stood out for his size, delivery, ability to throw strikes and spin a breaking ball. He progressed quickly and in some ways became a different pitcher than scouts had expected. He threw from almost straight over the top when he signed, but he’s since dropped down to a lower slot and gotten more life on his fastball, which was 85-88 mph when he signed but now sits around 88-89. Leal’s best pitch is his mid-to-high 70s breaking ball, an advanced pitch for his age with a chance to be plus. He didn’t have a changeup when he signed, but he’s developed feel for that pitch as well, giving him the potential for three average or better pitches if his velocity continues to climb.

I really like the way both of those read.

And if you’re down for some video, you can see a little bit on each of the pitchers. Castillo:

And Leal:

Now that you’re all jazzed, it’s time for the cold water: 17-year-old prospects, no matter how amazing, almost always flame out. It’s just a statistical probability. Even the best of the best prospects who come over to the States from the DSL frequently stall out. They are super young. They are super raw. And they have a super long way to go before they become notable trade bait, let alone productive big leaguers.

This is a great, great return for Tony Campana. It’s great to have these guys in the system. But let’s not go crazy about them just yet.

  • Patrick G

    Curve on Castillo on the 2nd pitch he throws looks nice

    • chirogerg

      Exactly what I thought. The shape looks a bit like Verlander’s curve. Good 12:30 to 6:30, but it’s hard to tell how late or sharply it breaks

      • Marc N.

        You have trouble telling how late and sharp Verlander’s curve breaks too?!?!?

  • dash

    I say we ignore Brett’s advice and go crazy about them immediately. WHOOO!

    • hansman1982

      Just think, in 2018 we will have a rotation of:


      WITH NO ROOM FOR FUTURE ACE BLACKBURN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      • MXB

        Johnson’s not gonna make it because he doesn’t have an L in his last name. Do we now have the most Castillos?

        • hansman1982

          The Affimative L Act states that the team has to have 1 non-L containing name in their starting rotation.

          • cas-castro

            Its a plus if his name is Scott.

      • Eric

        You are completely forgetting Vizciano, Underwood, and Panniagua in your future rotation, duh.

  • Kurt

    “But let’s not go crazy about them just yet”

    I wish you’d have started the piece off with this warning.

    I fear it’s too late now, the craziness started about the fourth paragraph in.

  • Danny Ballgame

    I was so jazzed that I almost made Mingus in my shorts. Thanks for the cold water

  • MichiganGoat

    This is a huge return for Campana, I’d have been satisfied with one of these players but to get two is impressive.

    • Die hard

      Campana guaranteed 150 hits 50 SB and avg OF-for next 5-8 yrs…who onCubs today can you say that about? After checking these kids BC twice to assure under 20 still have no such guarantee of any comparable pitching stats towards contribution

      • Patrick W.

        Oh, I don’t think it will take Tony Campana 5-8 years to get 150 hits. Maybe 2 or 3 but 5? No way.

        • TWC


          You beat me to it.

      • dw8

        Troll? right? I can’t tell anymore, I’m too old.

        • Patrick W.

          My comment for sure was trolling. Fire w/fire kind of thing.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Being ironic is not trolling: at least I hope not! Otherwise, I’d better avoid the sun.

            Besides, when you see a hanging curveball, you’ve got to take a mighty swing.

        • TWC

          Yeah, Die hard’s the original BN troll. When he’s not shaking his fist at the clouds, he’s typing incoherent nonsense. He deserves more sympathy than derision. That, and perhaps he could use a little help figuring out how to set the clock on his betamax machine. It’s been blinking *12:00* since 1983.

          • Spencer

            I don’t think he’s a troll.

            • TWC

              Well, that’s true — at least not always. But he’s the first person I can remember here who *actively* agitated for the sake of agitating.

      • Dan

        Over a period of 8 years I’d say that’s about right for Campana -150 TOTAL HITS

  • Marc N.

    Both look plenty athletic and loose, which is all I can really ask of a 17 year old.

    • Marc N.

      Oh and IIRC at least one of them is 6’3″ so there’s good size too. Relative to what I expected to happen with Campana it’s an impressive get.

      OTOH, I did chuckle a little at the “yeah we totally robbed that idiot Kevin Towers” stuff that I read THO. Unless it’s Felix Hernandez, and people knew exactly who that was at 17, you’re not robbing any franchise by taking a 17 year old pitcher off their hands. Plenty of work has to be done and there’s still a better chance neither even becomes a replacement level reliever.

    • TC

      absolutely. I especially like Castilo. He’s tall and gets excellent hip separation in his delivery, and its a smooth delivery too. His arm is in tempo with the rest of his body on most of the throws in that video. Probably never going to hear much out of him again, but he looks like a pitcher and that means a lot

      • Edwin

        He does look like a pitcher. Looks like he has good ball-throwingness.

        • DarthHater

          Spoken with true comment-typingness.

          • Wilbur

            Personally, I think I showed good comment-readingness …

    • Stevie B


  • Jonathan

    If nothing else, it is a good reminder that if you haven’t seen Sugar, you should track it down.

  • TC

    It’s not just amazing that the Cubs got these guys for Campana, who is not a very good baseball player, but another step of astonishing that they wrung value out of a team when they had almost leverage. The Cubs had already DFA’d Campana, and would’ve lost him to waivers in a few days anyway

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Well, it’s highly probable that both of these guys have horrible attitudes and are so flawed psychologically that their lips can move but you do NOT hear Kirk Gibson’s voice speaking.

      • TC

        <3 you Doc

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Out of how many? (I’m confused….)

          • TC

            <3, its supposed to look like a heart

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Oh! I thought that maybe it was a double scoop of ice cream on a cone. That would be even better.

              • MightyBear

                I thought it was a woman’s necklace and cleavage. I guess we all see what we want to see.

                • scorecardpaul

                  I was thinking with Mardi Gras being so close that u were lifting your shirt to get some beads

  • cedlandrum

    so you are saying these guys both rate as future number 1’s? SQUEAL!!!!

  • cubsin

    While I give both these guys about a 5% chance of reaching the big leagues, either one would have been adequate compensation for Campana in my opinion. Getting them both was a bonus.

  • hansman1982

    Castillo does the Inverted W…ick.

    • TC

      a little, yeah. It doesn’t feel like his arm is dragging like Leal’s though, for whatever reason

      • hansman1982

        ya, he is a tick behind when they plant their front feet but then, for whatever reason, he gets ahead of Leal from “cocking” to release.

        My browser was acting wonky towards the end of me dragging through their side view-slow-mo delieveries.

        • hansman1982

          how I would love some hi-speed footage of them (along with big-name guys throughout history)

    • Edwin

      It doesn’t look too bad, though. I don’t think the inverted W is as bad as some make it out to be. It’s not the best, but really, what pitching delivery is?

      • TC

        it usually allows for souped-up stuff, too. so while the inverted-w has “caused” the injuries of many pitchers, I doubt many of them become the dominant power arms they were without it.

        The biggest problem with it is that if you get lazy in your delivery, your arm will fall very far behind your body and lead to a whipping of the arm that is just horrible. But if you keep your tempo well, you can get a lot of power out of that type of delivery

        • hansman1982

          ya, that is basically what I have read of it. Rather than using your body to generate the pitch, you use your arm and them boom goes the elbow-nite…

          • waittilthisyear

            isn’t an inverted w an m…?

            • Brett

              You could look at those letters and see that the answer is no.

            • hansman1982

              Geez, did you not attend 2nd grade?


              Clearly two different things.

              • Danny Ballgame


                • hansman1982


                  • DarthHater


              • waittilthisyear

                twas a half joke, lets settle down a little. and /\/\ looks like “m” mcdonalds uses during the Olympics (no point to that observation)

                • hansman1982


                  Mine was meant as a witty retort. Of course the Inverted W should just be called an M. But saying a pitcher has an M delivery isn’t as geeky sounding.

      • hansman1982

        It isn’t as bad as these two chaps:


        • hansman1982

          FWIW: Both of these dudes had TJ surgery/.

    • DarthHater


      • hansman1982


        • TWC

          Darth is having some picture-linking issues today…

          • DarthHater

            Hmm. The picture was there before…

            • DarthHater


              • Rich H

                AAAAAAAAAAAACK I want to steal that pic. That is my new Photo for Facebook!

    • md8232

      Isn’t an inverted W a M?

      • md8232

        Shoulda kept reading.

    • Bob Johnson

      Both looked good on video. It would be fun to see them pitch in Geneva latter this year.

  • BluBlud

    Brett, going by your cold water logic, this is not a good trade for the Cubs. Campana is a valuable piece and a return of 2 players likely to reach the majors would be pretty bad.

    However(in my Stephen A. Smith voice) I say hold the cold water. Leal is more then a legit prospect. The DSL is equal to the ARL at least. You have 19 year old pitchers taken in the first round out of HS not dominating the ARL like this guy dominated the DSL at 17. If you look closer at his WHIP and his K/BB, I would say he was actually a bit unlucky also and could have easily had an ERA way under his 2.44 showing. He wasn’t dominate, he was damn near perfect. With strenthening and age, his fastball will improve to maybe 92-94. This guy may be the equal of a high schooler who has TOR potential.

    I hate to see Campana go, but Leal by himself is a great return. Ad in Castillo as a throw in and we have a very very good return for Campana.

    • BluBlud

      First paragraph should say unlikely not likely.


      AZL is actually a bit more advanced than DSL. DSL is more the equivalent of a big time college program, but with slightly younger players (16-20 instead of 18-22).

      I agree with Brett that the best litmus for these guys’ value at this point is their signing bonuses. Based on that, these guys are essentially the equivalent of a 4th rounder and a 15th rounder, if they were stateside H.S. guys subject to the draft. Seems like a very good return for a guy who had been DFA’d. If we could have traded Campana for AZ’s 4th and 15th round picks in the draft, I think fans would be happy with that.

      I know that there is a big difference between the draft and international free agents, but I though it would be interesting to see what pitchers the Cubs have taken in the 4th round since 2000, to get an idea of what kind of quality can be found in someone signing for approximately 4th round money. Here’s a few Cubs’ 4th round pitchers:

      2000: Todd Wellemeyer
      2001: Ricky Nolasco
      2002: Rich Hill
      2003: (took position player)
      2004: Chris Shaver
      2005: (position player)
      2006: (no 4th round pick–lost as FA compensation)
      2007: (position player–Darwin Barney)
      2008: (position player)
      2009: Chris Rusin
      2010: Hunter Ackerman
      2011: Tony Zych
      2012: Josh Conway

      The Cubs have gotten pretty good results with their 4th round pitcher picks, for whatever that’s worth (nothing, really…).

      During the same time span, the Cubs have produced exactly one MLB ball player with their 15th round picks–the ever popular Casey Coleman. Hopefully, I haven’t jinxed Leal by mentioning this…

      • Carew

        wow. Has it really been that long since Wellemeyer and Hill..

      • cedlandrum

        It may be college facilities but it is probably closer to AAU baseball. You are right though it is not Rookie ball for sure.

  • Diggs

    Man, Arizona has had a questionable off-season.

    Even if these two pitchers don’t pan out, it’s definitely worth taking a chance on them for a DFA’d outfielder who didn’t fit on this Cubs roster.

    • BluBlud

      It’s now pretty apparent that Campana was DFA’d because they knew they were going to trade him. If he wasn’t traded, I’m pretty sure he would not have been DFA’d. That’s what I get from what Theo and Jed has said. None the less, he had value to other teams. Apparently to more teams then people thought for the team with the 7th best chance of getting him for free to give up this much to get him. You can question Towers all you want, but the dude is not a dummy. And Campana is not a bad player. He will produce in arizona if given the chance.

      • hansman1982

        You are right, he will continue to produce as a 5th outfielder in MLB. Or as a AAA All-Star.

        • BluBlud

          I disagree, I just think he needs a chance to play everyday. The guy has the potential to hit at least .290 if given that chance. I hope he gets it. But oh well.

          • Rich H

            He is not going to get a chance to play over Parra, Ross, or Kubel. All this trade says for the Dbacks is that one of there young OF’ers is not as ready as previously advertised or that they want them to play everyday in AAA.

            So We just got to very intriguing pitching prospects for basically a 4th or 5th OF. Not a bad hall at all.

            That being said Campana is a Gibson type player so it does not surprise me that they were involved in getting him.

            • Kygavin

              Dont forget Adam Eaton too who is likely going to start in CF for ARI, which makes Campana a 5th OF (like he should be).

          • Drew7

            Its possible he could hit .290 in a full season (with a ton of luck and sac bunts), but his line would probably be something like .290/.310/.295

            • Cubbie Blues

              That SLG is a bit high. Other than that his numbers should be closer to Lou Brock.

      • Good Captain

        I agree Blu that I didn’t value TC’s positives as highly as at least one other organization and likely others. Still, I think the Cubs did the best they could in the situation they were in. Its time to let history weigh in on TC’s baseball career and see if he establishes a strong niche or becomes an answer in an advanced baseball trivia question.

  • DB Kyle

    Kevin Towers is either a mad genius or just mad, and I’m leaning toward the latter.

  • jacob w

    Can Someone explain the inverted w to me?

    • Edwin

      You can google Chris O’Leary and inverted W. He gives a decent explanation of it, I guess, although he goes way overboard about it.

      My understanding is that it has to do with a pitcher’s delivery, and the relationship between the shoulder and pitching elbow. If you look at the pictures above, the elbows above the shoulder’s form an inverted W.

      The inverted W can cause timing issues, which may cause injuries.

      • hansman1982

        Ya, if you are a durable person, are diligent in maintaining your mechanics (read obessive) and have some luck you shouldn’t be any more likely than most.

        However, the reason I dislike the IW is that it is just one more thing that can go wrong and cause injury. If you can avoid it, great…however, by the time the guys reach this stage, it’s probably too late to do any massive tweaking.

  • Bill

    Might want to temper the enthusiasm for these two pitchers. When trying to evaluate their talent, based on their signing bonus, remember the name Gerardo Concepcion. Lots of fans here were all excited about this signing as he had a ceiling as a back of the rotation starter. Then this guy started pitching in minor league games and we found out he’s terrible. He wouldn’t even make a good pitcher for a junior college team. The level of talent in the DSL is more like high school ball.

    • AB

      Concepcion’s numberss were terrible in Cuba, anyone who looked them up prior to the signing knew to temper their expectations.

      • Bill

        That didn’t stop many people on here giving major kudos to Theo/Jed for this signing, even for the dollars they paid out. All we heard was good signing for a pitcher who has a ceiling of a back of the rotation starter. If his numbers were so horrible in Cuba, then you have to wonder what Theo/Jed were thinking paying this guy any money, because the scouts have said his stuff is terrible.

        • AB

          The signing was judged as “good” based on many if it helped the Cubs sign Soler. If you heard it was a good sign value-wise based on Concepcion’s potential, you were listening to the wrong people. Concepcion’s main attributes cited by scouts if I recall were his tall pitchers frame for which there was some projectability for growth and filling out and extremely consistent delivery and smooth mechanics.

          I don’t remember scouts or analysts talking up his stuff. Probably the push to start him at Peoria because he was already rostered wasn’t very helpful either, but nobody was projecting him to be more than a back of the rotation pitcher. It was just a last chance for teams to get their fixes in before the constraints of the new CBA. Would Soler or Puig have gotten 30+ million if the new regualations hadn’t set int?? There probably was alot of inflation for international contracts at the time due to the CBA situation, so its hard to compare Concepcion’s $7 million to what these guys were got back in 2010/2011

          • Bill

            The kudos about signing Concepcion came from this site. People noted the signing was an added bonus in that it might help us sign Soler. Again, most people said it was an added bonus, not the primary benefit of signing Concepcion. Also, the part about helping us sign Soler was totally speculation on fans part, and I’ve seen no evidence that this signing helped us land Soler.

            I never said scouts talked up his stuff, although I did read pre-signing that his fastball was much better than it was in Peoria. The scouts reports about Concepcion came after his pitching in Peoria (last May or so). It was said his stuff was so bad that he wouldn’t make a good community college pitcher.

            The reality is since the Cubs refused to spend money during last year’s FA market they felt the need to spend some money on IFA, especially before the new CBA rules went into effect. As a result, the Cubs drastically overpaid for these playes, in particular, for Concepcion.

            I’m not complaining they spent the money, although I would have preferred they spent it on proven players (FA’s), rather than give millions to a guy who is holding down a spot on the 40 man roster who shouldn’t even be in the system.

            • BWA

              concepcion is no longer on the 40 man.

            • TWC

              “The reality is since the Cubs refused to spend money during last year’s FA market they felt the need to spend some money on IFA, especially before the new CBA rules went into effect.”

              No, that’s not “the reality”; that’s your weird interpretation of what happened. While it’s true that there was a bit of a rush to sign IFA’s prior to that aspect of the CBA coming into effect, that feeling was league-wide, not just limited to the Cubs. To speculate that the Cubs’ increase IFA activity was a result of their inactivity in the FA market is nonsense. They’re different classes of players (prospects vs. FA vets). Unwillingness to sign big-name FAs is completely unrelated to a willingness to gamble cash on prospects.

              Did they overpay for Concepcion? Sure looks that way. But $6m over 5 years? That’s a pretty insignificant sum. If any of those dollars had any part of Soler’s willingness to sign w/ the Cubs, then so be it.

  • Jono

    Brett, I really like how you write these. They’re so much better than every other cubs blog I sometimes read from twitter links (the only blogs I read are cubs blogs, but “the best blog I’ve ever read” sounds a little much (even though it is))

    • Brett

      Well thank you.

  • Marc N.

    Speaking of 17 year old DSL arms with good numbers. Has anyone proven with visual evidence that Carlos A. Rodriguez is a real person?

    • tim815

      A. Stands for A Real Person, so there’s that.

      • mudge

        I thought it stood for A Retired Person

  • Cubbie Blues

    Brett, from your link on the Youngest In Each League, I was surprised to see Castro as still the 6th youngest in the NL. Arodys Vizcaino was listed as 2nd.

  • Pingback: Kinda Sorta Game Action Getting Underway Today and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()