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Ryan Castellani and a history of high school pitching

Rockies news and links for Saturday, June 26, 2021

Ryan Castellani was designated for assignment on Thursday by the Rockies in order to make room for Bernardo Flores Jr., who the Rockies claimed off waivers from St. Louis. While it is unlikely that Castellani will be claimed and added to the 40-man roster of another club, he still could be moved for cash or a PTBNL, or decline assignment if he does clear waivers and elect free agency. He could also clear waivers and accept his assignment to Triple-A after being removed, essentially staying put while losing his 40-man spot, but the writing is on the wall with this transaction that Castellani’s time as a piece for the Rockies major league staff is over unless a dramatic change occurs.

Castellani is only 25 years-old and was a former second round selection, so the move may be surprising on the surface. But when looking at his minor league numbers, especially recently, the move becomes much more understandable.

Since entering professional baseball in 2014, Castellani has always had relatively high-octane stuff, but with command issues to figure out. From 2014-2017, his BB/9 hovered around 2.5. In his second stint at Double-A in 2018, however, it shot up to 4.7. In 2019 at Triple-A it spiked to 6.2. After a strong Arizona Fall League showing to finish the 2019 season, Castellani reached the majors in 2020 but produced unremarkable results. He sported an ERA+ of 89 in 43 ⅓ innings, but his 26 walks to 25 strikeouts showed there was still work to be done. Now, in 2021, Castellani has walked 33 in 35 ⅔ innings at Triple-A Albuquerque and has an all-time high BB/9 of 8.3.

The command has simply continued to regress since taking a turn for the worse in 2018, so the decision to designate him for assignment to make room for another arm makes sense. But just because it’s understandable on some level doesn’t make it easier, and with the recent news surrounding Rockies recent draft picks the timing couldn’t have been much worse from a fan’s perspective.

Heading into the season, former first round pick Mike Nikorak announced his retirement after experiencing his second major elbow injury. Earlier in the month former top pick Riley Pint decided to step away from the game too. Now Castellani has essentially been removed from the picture as well, further expanding the void of pitching depth at the higher levels in the Rockies minor league system.

While all three now share a dubious honor of falling into the “what if” category, they also share a pedigree of being prep-level pitchers selected by the Rockies. This is arguably the riskiest demographic of any draft profile, so the success rate is set at a very low bar in scouting circles. But, despite the low expectations, the Rockies have been shockingly unable to meet even a middling standard of production.

Since 2005, only four pitchers who were drafted and signed out of high school by the Rockies have reached the major leagues. Those four are Chaz Roe in 2005 (who has never pitched in the big leagues with Colorado), Tyler Matzek in 2009, Ryan Castellani in 2014 and Peter Lambert in 2015. Lambert is recovering from Tommy John surgery in July of 2020, so we will likely have to wait until 2022 to see if he becomes a stable piece of the big league squad.

But with the dismissal of Castellani and the retirements of Nikorak and Pint, Lambert is currently the only hope we have left of finding production from this pool of talent. Riley Pint, in 2016, was the last high school pitcher drafted and signed by the Rockies until Case Williams, a Douglas County product, was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. However, Williams was shipped to Cincinnati this offseason in the deal to acquire Robert Stephenson, so that leaves the Rockies with just Castellani and Lambert left as original pitching selections out of high school still in the system.

The Rockies front office is in flux. Jeff Bridich, Jon Weil and Zach Wilson have all resigned this season, so an impending overhaul of the front office is a fair assumption to make. With this new personnel must come a change in strategy and implementation of talent development, though. We’ve already covered how poorly the Rockies have fared in drafting and developing outside of the first two rounds, but now we must acknowledge that the organizational philosophy for drafting and developing prep-level arms needs to be reworked from the ground up as well, because the results so far show that their system is not working.

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Rockies lose another assistant general manager in second front office departure this month | The Denver Post ($)

With Zach Wilson announcing his resignation a mere ten days after Jon Weil did the same, Sean Keeler discusses the current structuring of the Rockies front office at an important juncture of the season. With the trade deadline looming, decisions will need to be made on Trevor Story, Jon Gray, C.J. Cron and others. Those decisions could shape the future rosters of the Rockies major and minor league products for years to come and the recent resignations, along with the departure of GM Jeff Bridich at the start of the season, leaves the Colorado franchise is a precarious spot at the moment.

On the farm

Triple-A: Tacoma Rainiers 10, Albuquerque Isotopes 6

The Isotopes dropped their second straight game to the Rainiers in Albuquerque on Friday. Jesus Tinoco was unable to make it out of the second inning in his start, surrendering five earned runs on six hits while issuing three free passes in 1 13 innings. Rio Ruiz, Ryan Vilade and Greg Bird each had two hits in the ballgame. Ruiz clubbed his third home run of the season in the fifth inning while Vilade drove in three runs of his own.

Double-A: Richmond Flying Squirrels 10, Hartford Yard Goats 9

Frankie Tostado broke the hearts of Hartford, hitting a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth off closer Yoan Aybar to steal the game for Richmond. Karl Kauffman had a rough outing to start the contest, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits in two innings pitched. Coco Montes and Willie Abreu provided the majority of the offensive punch as the Yard Goats worked their way into the lead during in the middle innings. Montes collected four hits and scored three runs while Abreu had three knocks of his own and drove in four runs in the losing effort.

High-A: Hillsboro Hops 2, Spokane Indians 0

The Indians were shutout on the road in Hillsboro. Helcris Oliveraz threw well but ended up wearing the loss. He only allowed one hit and struck out seven in five innings, but did allow two runs and walked four. Six of the eight Indians starter collected a hit in the contest, including Willie MacIver who extended his hitting streak to seven games with a triple in the sixth inning.

Low-A: Visalia Rawhide 6, Fresno Grizzlies 5

The Grizzlies lost on a walk-off double surrendered by closer Juan Mejia in the ninth inning, evening their road series with Visalia 2-2 with two games left to play. Starter Breiling Eusebio gave up five runs in five innings on eight hits, although he did strike out eight Rawhide batters while walking only one. Two of the eights allowed were long balls, which accounted for four of the six runs scored by Visalia. Zac Veen, Ezequiel Tovar and Drew Romo all had multi-hit evenings in the loss.

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