A closer look: What Mariners are getting in All-Star RHP Luis Castillo
As the Mariners were getting blown out by the Houston Astros Friday night, Jerry Dipoto was working the phones. And for good reason. He was able to acquire right-handed pitcher Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds for four prospects.
Castillo was arguably the biggest name not named Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani – though Soto is far more likely to be moved than Ohtani – to appear in trade rumors ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, and he was seen as the top pitcher on the market.
Now, he winds up in Seattle for a playoff run and figures to be a key piece in the Mariners potentially ending their two-decades long playoff drought.
So who is Luis Castillo, exactly? Let’s dive in, shall we?
Who is Luis Castillo?
Castillo is a 29-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic. He signed with the San Francisco Giants as an international free agent in 2011, and was traded to the Miami Marlins organization in 2014. In January 2017, he was sent to the Reds and he made his MLB debut later that year.
Castillo quickly established himself as one of the Reds’ best pitchers, sticking in the rotation each of the last six years. He earned two All-Star nods in his time in Cincinnati, including this year.
— MLB (@MLB) September 18, 2021
The 6 foot 2, 200-pound right-hander is signed through the 2023 season and is entering his final year of arbitration this offseason. He’s earning a total of $7.35 million in 2022.
Starting with his career statistics, Castillo has a 44-53 career record in 137 starts (792 1/3 innings pitched) with a 3.62 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.204 WHIP and 860 strikeouts to 287 walks. He allows 7.6 hits, 3.3 walks and 1.0 home runs per nine innings while striking out an average of 9.8 batters per nine.
As far as his All-Star campaign of 2022 goes, Castillo is 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 1.071 WHIP and 90 strikeouts to 28 walks in 85 innings across 14 starts. He’s allowing 6.7 hits, 3.0 walks and 0.7 home runs per nine inning while striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings pitched. Opponents are slashing just .201/.274/.319 off Castillo in 2022.
Castillo also has been worth 3.3 wins above replacement (WAR) in 2022, which trails only Julio Rodriguez as far as Mariners players this season. And what makes that especially notable is Castillo didn’t make his 2022 debut until May 9 due to shoulder discomfort. His 3.3 WAR ranks 11th among MLB pitchers (not counting Ohtani), per ESPN.
Castillo has been excellent of late, as well. In four July starts, he threw seven innings in each outing and posted a 1.93 ERA while allowing 26 total baserunners and and .177/.236/.304 opponent slash line with 30 strikeouts to seven walks in 28 innings pitched.
In his last start before the All-Star Break, Castillo spun seven innings of one-run ball in New York against the Yankees, allowing just two hits while striking out eight. That’s notable as Castillo’s Mariners debut should come in New York against the Yankees between Monday and Wednesday.
The electric arsenal
Castillo is a four-pitch pitcher and he uses all his weapons often.
Per Statcast, Castillo uses a 4-seam fastball (32%), changeup (25.8%), sinker (21.3%) and slider (20.9%).
Opponents are hitting only .171 with a .183 slugging percentage against the fastball this year, and 45 of his 90 strikeouts have come via the 4-seamer. The strikeout rate of his fastball is 45.5%. Castillo averages 96.9 mph on the heater this year, which ranks in the 91st percentile in baseball.
🔥 101 mph 🔥
The fastest pitch of Luis Castillo's career! pic.twitter.com/Z7OgFlz1lc
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 14, 2021
The changeup is also a weapon for Castillo, with opponents hitting only .196 with a .340 slugging percentage off the off-speed offering, which averages 88.3 mph.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 11, 2019
Castillo’s slider has also been very effective, with opponents hitting .189 off it and slugging .283. It’s a hard slider, averaging 86.6 mph.
The sinker has been Castillo’s least-effective pitch this season, with an opponent batting average of .307 and slugging percentage of .467. The sinker averages 96.6 mph.
Castillo will use all four of his pitches regardless of the handedness of the batter, but he uses his changeup nearly twice as much versus left-handed hitters than right-handers, and his slider and sinker a tad more against righties than lefties.
He uses a three-quarters delivery and release, which has helped him get tremendous movement on his pitches in addition to being a top-velocity starting pitcher.
Castillo hasn’t really been hurt by the longball despite making half his starts at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, but he now moves to a much more spacious home field in T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
The advanced numbers
Red means good on Statcast pages and the ex-Reds’ Statcast page is full of his former team’s color.
Castillo, in addition to posting great overall numbers in 2022, has the advanced metrics to go along with the statistics most fans are accustomed to following.
He’s excelling in average exit velocity (63rd percentile), hard-hit rate (64th), xERA (77th), xBA (70th), xSLG (81st), barrel rate (82nd), strikeout rate (69th), whiff rate (61st), xwOBA (77th) and fastball spin (62nd). His chase rate is above league average in the 53rd percentile while his walk rate is in the 45th percentile.
Well, Castillo slots in as the Mariners’ top pitcher, even above current ace, reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, who’s had an up-and-down 2022 but, aside for two recent outings versus the Astros, has been dominant for the last two months.
The addition of Castillo gives the Mariners six healthy and capable MLB starters in him, Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and George Kirby. Kirby is a rookie who has limited innings experience in pro ball while Gilbert just passed his 2021 MLB innings total on Thursday and has roughly 10 regular season starts remaining. Of those six pitchers, five are signed for 2023, with Flexen being the exception. He has enough innings pitched between 2021 and 2022 to where a club option for 2023 is now a player option, so he could opt out and test free agency after this season.