Luis Castillo turned in another solid outing for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, allowing just 2 ER in 5.1 IP against a Washington Nationals club that has been hitting the crud out of the ball recently. It continued what has been a rather strong turnaround for the 25 year old righty since a brutal start to his season, as he’s now pitched to a 2.43 ERA over his previous 6 games, his 28/6 K/BB ratio during 33.1 IP in that span much more in-line with the lofty expectations that were placed on his shoulders for 2018 after his breakout 2017 campaign with the Reds.
Castillo, of course, came to the Reds from the Miami Marlins as the centerpiece of the deal that sent pitcher Dan Straily in the other direction. Straily, to his credit, has been a reasonably serviceable workhorse for the Marlins since the deal went down, firing 274.2 innings of 4.29 ball, his 91 ERA+ across two seasons just a tad below league-average.
Castillo alone has outperformed Straily since the deal, and comes at a cheaper rate for more years of control, to boot. Add-in that reliever Austin Brice has, at times, provided decent bullpen depth at the big league level for two years, and if that was the entirety of the return from the trade that sent Straily to Miami, it should be viewed as a fairly decent heist from the Reds perspective.
That, though, was far from the entire return, as we’re gradually becoming more aware of by the day. At the time of the January 2017 swap, Isaiah White had just turned 20 days before, and was fresh off a meager .214/.306/.301 with the Batavia Muckdogs, the Marlins affiliate of the low-a NYPL. As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors noted at the time of the deal, the OF was given a 70 grade on his speed by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, “with the potential to be a premium defender in centerfield,” aspects of his game that were good enough for him to be ranked as the 15th best prospect in a Marlins farm system that, at the time, was not very good at all.
Speed and defense as a calling card. Got it. If that’s still the case with White, though, the Reds just might have a breakout prospect on their hand.
Finding news about Isaiah White these days is a bit difficult, however - he now goes by Zeek White, and Zeek has turned into a bit of an offensive monster during the 2018 season. Granted, he’s split time between Rookie League clubs in Greeneville of the Appy League and Billings of the Pioneer League in 2018 after a lone game with Class A Dayton and a forgettable 41 games with Billings in 2017, but the offensive turnaround is beginning to stand out in a growing sample that’s eye-popping regardless of league.
So far in 2018, White owns a 1.015 OPS in 136 PA across 32 games, 9 with the Greeneville Reds before being sent to Billings for the most recent 23. His .351/.444/.570 combined line has featured 5 dingers, 6 doubles, 2 triples, and 11 steals, even sporting an impressive 13.3% walk rate while with the Mustangs. Still just 21 years old, the former 3rd round pick who broke into professional ball with a reputation as a speed/defense player first is showing precisely the kind of offensive upside that when paired with those two elite skills has the makings of a fine, fine position prospect.
White, at the time, was pretty much the picture-perfect example of a lower-level ‘wild card’ piece of a deal, a player that you wouldn’t see impact the big league club for years even if everything possible went correctly. He obviously has a tremendously long way to go to even get his name on the radar of the big league Reds, but so far things appear to be gradually rounding into form - especially for a player who didn’t even crack MLB.com’s list of the Top 30 prospects in the Cincinnati system.
Castillo’s ability to dazzle in the Cincinnati starting rotation will continue to headline the Straily deal for the next few years, if things continue to go well. Brice, too, should be around to mop things up and induce some key double plays, if he continues to refine his performances. However, it’s White that just might make this trade remain relevant years down the road, since if his offensive breakout is at all sustainable as he reaches higher levels of the minors, the Reds are going to have a monster of a player on their hands.