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Ryan Castellani debuted and hung in as the Rockies fifth starter

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Thrust into the starting rotation, Ryan Castellani rode the 2020 roller coaster through to the end

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 13, Ryan Castellani: 0.1 rWAR

Many paths to the big leagues were hastened for young players all across the league, including the Colorado Rockies’ second round pick in the 2014 amateur draft: Ryan Castellani. The fifth spot in the starting rotation was loosely held by Chi Chi González to start the season. González, however, was sidelined early on with “right biceps tendinitis.” This prompted the Rockies to call up Castellani from the Alternative Training Site on August 7th. He had a strong start and settled into being consistently inconsistent over 10 appearances, nine of them as a starter.

Coming out of the gate hot

Castellani made the most of his debut when he got his first start on August 8th against the Seattle Mariners and held them hitless over four innings leading the Rockies to a 5-0 victory putting their record at 11-3. Bud Black exercised caution with the young right-hander, limiting him to just 60 pitches in the outing. He followed up with another gem striking out a season-high seven against the Texas Rangers on August 14th. He continued to impress during his cameo as the team’s fifth starting pitcher with a 1-1 record, 3.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 14 K through his first four games.

Up and down season

It was difficult, however, for Castellani to maintain the success of his first four appearances. On August 30th, the San Diego Padres lit him up for five earned runs in just two innings. He continued to have appearances where he was nearly unhittable (5 ⅔ IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 6 BB, 4 K on September 13th against the Los Angeles Angels) followed by forgettable performances where he was very human (4 ⅓ IP, 8 R, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 K on September 18th against the Dodgers). Any mistakes he made in the final month were exacerbated by a high walk rate as he issued no less than three free passes in each of his final four starts.

Competing again in spring training

Castellani doesn’t have the pedigree of a lights out starting pitcher and Statcast data shows he’s below league average in most measured pitching attributes with the exception of his fastball spin rate. He also showed a penchant for walking batters (5.4 BB/9) and giving up home runs (2.5 HR/9), both of which will need to improve for Black to feel comfortable with him taking the mound every fifth game. Depending on how things shake out this offseason, Castellani will likely find himself competing for either a long-relief role or the fifth starter again going into spring training for the 2021 season.