Right-handed pitcher Anthony Castro is a bit of a sleeper pick in 2017. He didn’t garner a place on most prospect lists after missing the 2015 season to Tommy John surgery. As a result, he has yet to graduate beyond rookie ball. But after a strong bounce-back campaign in 2016, he’s finally ready to take the next step. When he does, don’t be surprised if he moves rather quickly through the lower minors.
Castro was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in 2011. He played Venezuelan Winter League ball his first two stints as a pro before moving to the Gulf Coast League in 2014. The 21-year-old righty threw 51 innings across 10 starts in 2016. He compiled a brilliant 2.27 FIP compared to his 4.24 ERA. He struck out over 25 percent of hitters to just a 7.5 percent walk rate without a single home run allowed, but was partly undone as the result of a .366 BABIP.
Teams typically take a slower path with young international free agents, hence Castro’s multiple seasons in rookie ball. The Tigers were careful to manage his innings cautiously after he returned from Tommy John surgery. Any concerns were quickly alleviated by Castro’s excellent progress. He put an exclamation mark on his return from surgery by spinning five innings of no-hit ball in August, with teammate Malvin Martinez finishing things out for a combined seven inning no-hitter for the GCL Tigers West. Castro will finally take his next step up in 2017, looking to build momentum in A-ball.
Castro has a smooth, easy delivery, generating average fastball velocity. He routinely flashed plus velocity before surgery, and as he develops that may return. Either way, he generates outstanding life on the pitch. A very conventional three-quarters slot suits his fastball/curveball combination well. He has only allowed five home runs in over 200 innings of rookie ball, which serves as solid evidence of the life on his stuff. You don’t just “run into” his fastball. The curveball is plus, with flashes of more, with the slider and changeup lagging behind. As Castro’s walk rate this season confirms, he already has good control of his arsenal as well.
Castro really impressed the folks at TigsTown this season, showing the same strength, arm speed and life on his pitches as he did prior to surgery. They have liked Castro all along, and ranked him ninth in the Tigers’ system heading into 2017. This is quite lofty considering Castro failed to show up among the top 20 in any other site’s rankings. Our friend Paul Wezner makes a pretty compelling case.
Blessed with easy arm strength from a loose delivery, Castro sits in the low-90s and bumps higher with his heavy fastball that shows tremendous life. When complimented with a potential plus breaking ball, Castro has the makings of a powerful two-pitch combination that can dominate hitters.
This is an impressive review for a pitcher in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. TigsTown actually ran a few pieces on Castro’s surgery, in which he credited the advice and counsel of fellow Venezuelan Bruce Rondon with helping him stay positive throughout the grueling rehabilitation process. Castro comes across as a guy who took the injury as a challenge to improve his strength and conditioning, and it showed during his short 2016 campaign. TigsTown still sees projection in Castro’s frame as well, giving him a solid chance to develop more heat on his fastball.
Castro throws strikes with all of his pitches, and could still see increased velocity down the line, giving him the potential to evolve into an electric mid-rotation starter.
While there’s a lot to like in Castro, he remained in rookie ball in 2016. Those reasons were health-driven, but the fact remains that at 21, Castro still hasn’t faced much competition that can handle him. As such, it’s not so easy to predict how he will do against other more advanced prospects at higher levels.
Castro’s changeup is still very much a work in progress. However, his smooth arm action, extension, and the quality of his fastball do auger well for potential projection on the change. He already has good feel for spinning the fastball, which may prove transferable to the changeup as well.
The jury is still out on whether Castro can develop more velocity. While he has fine whip in his arm and good athleticism, he is listed at 6’2 and 165 pounds. That frame is projectable, but he is a slender individual and we don’t know how he will fill out as he gets older. His currently advanced control could take a hit if he changes his mechanics or simply his effort in order to throw harder. Only time will tell if he can add some quality heft, particularly in his lower body, and develop into a durable, hard-thrower who can maintain his stuff deep into games.
Projected 2017 team: West Michigan Whitecaps
Castro may well start the year with the West Michigan Whitecaps in the Midwest League. However, at age 21 with four seasons of rookie ball under his belt, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Tigers to move Castro on to High-A Lakeland. He would be under the close eye of the Tigers’ player development staff there, and with the stuff to compete at that level already in hand, would finally start getting tested. Much will depend on what kind of start Castro gets off too, and how many innings the Tigers’ organization has planned for him in 2017.
(Video courtesy of James Chipman)