9. Ryan Castellani (880 points, 39 ballots)
The first thing to remember about Ryan Castellani is that he's younger than you think he is. At 20 years old, he’s just four months older than Brendan Rodgers, and he will pitch all of 2017 at age 21. Despite being among the youngest players in every league he’s played in, the 6'3 right-hander already has completed his third successful year as a professional. That's a great outcome for Castellani, who signed out of an Arizona high school for $1.1 million in 2014. Entering 2016, Castellani hadn't posted big numbers due in part to the careful handling of him by the Rockies—Castellani wasn't allowed to pitch past five innings on any of his starts until late 2015, and he'd never broken the 90 pitch barrier.
In 2016 with High-A Modesto, Castellani was able to pitch with fewer restrictions, going over five innings in 20 of his 26 starts and eclipsing his previous innings pitched high with 167 2⁄3 frames. Castellani's 3.81 ERA isn't eye-catching, but he posted 16 quality starts and his 3.61 FIP shows that he was even a little unlucky. In addition, Castellani sported a decent 7.6 K/9 rate and an acceptable 2.7 BB/9 mark against hitters who were on average 3.1 years older. His maturity and great understanding of his craft are on display in a 2016 Spring Training profile of Castellani by Bobby DeMuro.
Castellani placed 8th on the Baseball Prospectus Rockies list:
The Good: Castellani’s fastball is the big-league kind, with plus two-seam movement and above-average velocity from his three-quarter slot. He generates quality life down in the zone, and will cut the pitch for an additional weapon against left-handers. Both secondaries flash above-average, with the changeup running effectively off his fastball plane and the slider showing moderate two-plane bite. There’s good baseline athleticism in his delivery, and a tighter arm action works fluidly in spite of some jerk. He has started filling out his 6-foot-3 frame to where he now looks the part of a durable innings-eater.
The Bad: The delivery features some drop and a drifting drive at present. He lacks for pitch-to-pitch execution, as the slot wanders and he doesn’t always get over his front side. The primary culprit is inconsistent timing; a closed-off landing leaves the glove-side command particularly dodgy, and the mechanics are such that this may be a persistent issue. Feel to snap off the slider comes and goes, and it’s an unrefined pitch that he’ll get around and roll. The raw pitch grades play down right now due to command questions.
The Risks: Castellani has all of the ingredients to develop into a mid-rotation starter, and both the sinking action on his fastball and his secondary arsenal profile well for his potential future home. Last season was the first in which the organization’s gloves came off, and he responded with nearly 170 innings of generally sound production. A chief concern about how well he ultimately harnesses and syncs his delivery makes for a wider range of potential outcomes, and that, coupled with the fact that at last glance he was a pitcher, makes him a higher-risk prospect.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ended up with Castellani 11th on his list:
Castellani elicited anything between No. 3 and 5 starter projections from scouts with whom I spoke. His delivery has been compared to that of Max Scherzer and Castellani’s rubbery arm action generates big movement on a 92-94 mph fastball that will touch above that. With the movement factored in, it’s a comfortably plus pitch. He flashes an above-average slider and has shown an ability to throw it both in the strike zone and in the dirt to his glove side. Despite the perceived ugliness in Castellani’s delivery, his arm is quite loose and the action is short. I think there’s quite a bit of changeup projection here as well.
The delivery has some violence about the head in addition to the funky arm action. Not everyone loves it but, from a command perspective, I think it works fine. He was gently used during his first two years of pro ball and hasn’t had any reported health issues yet. The body has little projection but isn’t bad. I don’t expect to see more velocity than is already present, especially as the work load increases. I think Castellani has a good shot at being a league-average starter. He could begin 2017 at Double-A.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball put Castellani 10th:
Fastball 90-95 with strong ground ball rate; mixes in slider, change-up, both secondary pitches making slow but steady progress and will round out a full arsenal; usually throws strikes, number four starter projection but should not be overlooked
Castellani's success this year in Modesto led him to move from 19th to 12th on the MLB.com current list:
Castellani already pitches at 91-93 mph and reaches 96 with hard sink on his fastball, which could sit in the mid-90s once he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. His secondary pitches lack consistency but show flashes of becoming solid offerings. He throws his slider in the low 80s and his changeup has some fade and sink.
Castellani has a quick arm and a clean delivery, so he's able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes with ease. Once he adds strength and refines his secondary pitches and command, he could blossom into a mid-rotation starter.
The polish shown by Castellani and the recent velocity gains we've seen from the 20-year-old in 2016 represents a very exciting profile and an example of great pitching prospect development from the Rockies (say what!?!). At his current pace, Castellani would be a serious factor for the major league rotation by his 23rd birthday in 2019, if not sooner. I'm a big believer in Castellani's potential and I think his profile also has a high floor given the maturity and polish shown by him to date. Overall, I ranked Castellani ninth in the system and gave him a 50 Future Value as a mid-rotation starter.