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The Red Report 2018 - Luis Castillo

Have the Reds found their ace?

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Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Born on December 12, 1992 in Bani, Dominican Republic.
  • Originally signed in 2011 by the San Francisco Giants, the Reds are Castillo’s 4th organization.
  • Castillo was originally traded by the Miami Marlins to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in 2016, only to be traded back to Miami a couple days later when Collin Rea hurt his elbow.
  • Traded to the Reds along with Isaiah White and Austin Brice for Dan Straily in January, 2017.
  • Made his Major League debut on June 23, 2017 against the Washington Nationals after putting up a 2.58 ERA in Double-A Pensacola.
  • Finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017.

Organizational History

Signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent on December 23, 2011.
Debut June 23, 2017.
Rookie Status: Exceeded Rookie status during 2017 season.
2018 Contract Status: Pre-Arb Eligible.
Arb Eligible: 2012
Free Agent: 2024

Career Stats:

Scouting Report:

According to Brooks Basesball, Castillo primarily uses a 4-seam fastball (98 mph) and change-up (88 mph) while mixing in a slider (85 mph) and sinker (97 mph). His sinker, although he didn’t develop it until late July, allowed him to start forcing more ground balls and was a huge factor in his success in 2017. This chart, as shown in the previously linked fangraphs article, shows exactly when he began using his sinker and how he became more reliant on it as the season went on.

And here are zone profiles showing his percentage of ground balls vs fly balls against all hitters, showing just how successful he is in forcing hitters to put the ball on the ground.

2018 Projections:

Luis Castillo 2018 Projections

Source G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Source G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Depth Chart 24 24 142 8.69 2.65 3.85 3.93 2.6
Steamer 24 24 144 8.97 2.94 3.91 3.97 2.6
ZiPS 29 28 156.3 8.41 2.36 3.8 3.89 2.9


If there is one thing that we have figured out over the last two seasons, it’s that the success of the Reds’ rebuild is dependent on the success of their pitching staff. While that statement might be true across the league (it’s tough to win games if you give up a ton of runs), it’s been especially true of the Reds over the last couple of seasons. As the Reds have posted near-or-above league average numbers on offense over the last three seasons, they have been near the bottom of the league on the pitching side over those three seasons. That’s not exactly shocking when their leaders in innings pitched in 2016 and 2017 were Dan Straily and Tim Adleman.

The struggles of the pitching staff over the last couple of years can be blamed on a few things. Injuries to their veterans and the slow development of their young prospects led to such an issue of depth that it was hard to trust anyone to go out and last 5 innings in a given night. While depth in the rotation has been their main issue, they have also lacked that number 1 starter that they could count on every 5 days to get the job done. Enter Luis Castillo.

Luis Castillo burst onto the scene for the Reds at the end of June in 2017 after dominating the Southern League with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He came into the league with a fastball that sat in the upper 90’s with a solid changeup and a slider to counter. While the fastball-changeup combo worked well enough in the minors to keep his strikeout rate up, scouts worried that his fastball was too straight to do as much damage in the majors. While Castillo’s heater was still effective over the first month of his major league career, he forced 22.16 whiffs per swing with his four-seamer over that month, he changed something in late July that made him even more dangerous: He added a sinker.

Instead of relying on a straight fastball that hitters could possibly adjust to, his newfound sinker allowed him to use a second fastball type pitch that still sat in the upper 90’s to compliment his already dominant four-seamer. The results were almost immediate.

Luis Castillo 2017 Splits

Month IP ERA Opp. BA Opp. SLG K/9 K% GB% FB%
Month IP ERA Opp. BA Opp. SLG K/9 K% GB% FB%
June/July 48 3.56 0.22 0.41 9.6 26.20% 57.60% 31.20%
August/Sept. 41.1 2.61 0.17 0.299 10.2 28.70% 60.40% 26.00%

Obviously, the numbers in August and September were after he introduced the sinker into his repertoire. The addition of the sinker produced fewer runs, more strikeouts, and more ground balls. Basically, it gave him everything you’d ask for in an ace. Especially one that plays half his games in Great American Ballpark. While the sample size is admittedly small, and major league hitters will always adjust, these numbers give Reds’ fans something to look forward to as we head into 2018.

The success of the Reds’ rebuild was always going to be dependent on their pitching staff. While they are still trying to figure out the depth of the rotation, they may not need to look any further for their number 1 starter. They might have already found him in Luis Castillo.