Prospect: Jesus Castillo Rank: 15
2015/16: UR Position(s): RHP
Level: AAA/MLB Age: Entering Age 21 season in 2017.
Height: 6’2” Weight: 165 lb.
Present – Future
Fastball 50 55
Curve 45 55
Change 55 60
Mechanics 70 70
Command 50 60
Control 60 60
Overall 55 60
Floor: Swingman or long reliever in the majors/AAA depth.
Ceiling: A #3-4 starter in the majors.
Likely Outcome: A steady #4-5 starter in the majors/
Summary: The work Billy Eppler has done so far to restock a barren and broken Angels farm system has been nothing short of amazing. In only one season, he’s managed to draft eight of out Top 30 Prospects, and traded for another five. Roughly half (7) of our Top 15 Prospects were acquired by Billy Eppler in the last year alone. Jesus Castillo is just one example of Eppler knowing when to strike. Joe Smith was pitching half-way decent for the Angels in the final year of his contract, and at the trade deadline, teams were looking to get deeper in the bullpen. So Eppler dealt Smith, who really wasn’t going to make a difference for the Angels at that point in the season, for a promising 20 year old pitcher that the Cubs had buried so deep on their depth chart, they might’ve forgotten they even had him.
After being a high profile signing as a 16 year old by Arizona, Castillo was traded to the Cubs and simply wasn’t developing as quickly as they thought he would. At 16, he was skinny, under-sized with beautiful mechanics, and mid-80’s fastball and a solid change up. That works for scouts, because they project more growth. But for Castillo, he was still generally the same kid up through age 19, which had caused the Cubs to keep him buried in Rookie Ball, and even a transition to the bullpen. Then Castillo started his age 20 season. He showed up to camp more filled out (I’m guessing the 165 lb listing is dated at this point), and his 86-87 mph fastball had crept up to 90-92. His curve which had been a “show me” pitch before came in with tighter spin and bigger break to it. Castillo was maturing as a pitcher, and not a moment too soon.
The Cubs still chose to keep him in short season ball, and Castillo responded with tossing 33 innings, striking out 38, walking only three batters per nine innings, and carrying a sparkling 3.27 ERA. Then he was traded to the Angels at the trade deadline and things got really interesting. The Angels aggressively moved him to full season A Ball in Burlington, and he hurled 29 innings with 23 K’s, cut his BB/9 down to 2.1 and his ERA down to 2.43. What’s even more impressive, the reported 90-92 mph fastball in Chicago’s camp was showing up as consistently 92-93 with the Angels. His change up was as advertised and the curve ball started to turn into a “swing and miss” pitch.
While we can’t say for sure that Castillo’s transition will continue, we do know he’s a better pitcher than he was a year ago, and he was awfully impressive as a 20 year old down in A Ball. But it is fair to expect physical maturation to continue. Of course, hardly anyone is done growing at age 20, but if he is, Castillo has enough strength to succeed at the upper levels. There’s always the chance that Castillo could hit another physical maturity level in another couple years and start pumping mid-90’s heat, you never know.
What to expect next season: The Angels can go a couple different directions here. If they feel Castillo’s ready for the pressure the California League offers pitchers than they can move him up. In fact, I think this is probably the likeliest scenario as Castillo just didn’t look challenged at all in A Ball. The curve could use a bit more polish and command so he could generate more swings and misses, but that’s really nit-picking. The Angels could also opt to go a more conservative route with Castillo and keep him in A Ball a full year. I’ve been critical of the Angels seeming unwillingness to promote or challenge prospects in the past, but honestly, I think they’d be justified in either case here.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2020 season, Castillo’s age 24 season.