6. Ryan Castellani (846 points, 34 ballots)
I mention this every time I write about Ryan Castellani because it’s easy to forget: he’s younger than you think. Castellani is still just 21 years old (turning 22 in April) and is just four months older than Brendan Rodgers, even though he’s been in the system since 2014. Despite being among the youngest players in every league he’s played in, the 6’4”, 220 right-hander has four successful years as a professional. That’s a great track record for Castellani, who signed out of an Arizona high school for $1.1 million as a 2nd round pick.
Castellani hadn’t been allowed five innings or 90 pitches per start before 2016, and pitched well when the shackles were loosed that year. He threw 1672⁄3 frames of 3.81 ERA (3.61 FIP), 1.23 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 rate ball in the hitter-friendly California League against hitters who were on average 3 years older. It was encouraging to see Castellani demonstrate the ability to carry a starter’s workload of innings and to do so with effectiveness in a tough environment.
In 2017 at Double-A Hartford against players who were on average 3.3 years older, Castellani’s 4.89 ERA in 1571⁄3 innings over 27 starts wasn’t eye-catching. Nonetheless, there were signs of encouragement. Beyond the age/level difference, Castellani matched 2016’s BB/9 (2.7) and K/9 (7.6) rates, while his 3.99 FIP and .310 BABIP indicates that Castellani might have deserved better results than he got.
Here’s some video of Castellani from 2016 courtesy of FanRag Sports:
Castellani was the 5th best prospect in the system according to Baseball Prospectus, receiving a 55 OFP and 50 Likely role tag. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro’s take:
The Good: Castellani works off a good low-90s fastball that touched as high as 97 for me this year. He gets hard run and sink on it from a three-quarters slot, and can cut it to lefties at the lower range of his velocity. There’s some deception due to some funk and a bit of drop and drive in the mechanics (they often get comped to Max Scherzer’s). Castellani keeps the fastball down and can throw it to either side. It’s a weapon under the hands of righties and shatters lumber. He has two potential above-average secondaries. The slider is more advanced than the change at present. It can get slurvy in the lower-80s—and he’ll use that one to steal a strike here and there—but also shows a mid-80s version with hard tilt. Castellani maintains his arm action well on the change, and at its best it will show sink and fade. He’s still very young, and there’s projection left. I wouldn’t be shocked if he more consistently sits 93-94 as he did at times this year.
The Bad: I ended up seeing Castellani four times this year and every time he looked like a little bit of a different guy, but the one constant is he struggled to maintain his stuff into the sixth and seventh inning. The fastball would dip to 89-92 and start sitting up in the zone. The slider would get a little lazy. The change flashes but can lack bottom and needs further refinement. Slider can be more of a barrel-misser than a bat misser. There’s a curve, but it’s a show-me pitch. The body is still projectable, but the frame is a bit lithe, and the stuff might play better in short bursts.
The Risks: Standard decent pitching prospect risks. He might be a reliever, the change needs a grade jump. You know the drill.
Castellani is 6th in MLB.com’s current list:
Castellani’s fastball added velocity in 2016 and now sits at 92-95 mph and reaches 97 with armside run and heavy sink that should work well at Coors Field and still has some projection remaining. Both his slider and changeup have the potential to become plus pitches. He can throw his low-80s slider for strikes or back-foot it against left-handers, and he does a nice job of maintaining his arm slot and speed on his fading changeup.
Multiple club officials compare his mechanics to Max Scherzer’s -- which isn’t the smoothest -- and Castellani makes it work with his fast arm. He repeats his delivery well, fills the strike zone and likes to challenge hitters. He’s on course to reach the big leagues at age 22 and eventually become a No. 3 starter.
So hey, Max Scherzer mechanics. It’d be swell if Castellani’s results mimicked Mr. Scherzer as well. The polish shown by Castellani and the velocity we’ve seen from him represents an exciting profile and an example of great pitching prospect development from the Rockies (that’s right!). At his current pace, Castellani could be a serious factor for the major league rotation by his 23rd birthday in 2019, if not sooner since Colorado will need to add him to the 40 man roster after the 2018 season.
I’m a big believer in Castellani’s potential and in his ability to start in the majors. Overall, I ranked Castellani 4th in the system and gave him a 50 Future Value as a mid-rotation starter.