Unless you’re the Geico Caveman (and if you are, shoot me an email because you’re awesome), you’ve already seen the news that the Cincinnati Reds traded Dan Straily to the Miami Marlins for three prospects. I wrote about it over at RedsMinorLeagues.com. Steve Mancuso covered it quite well here at Redleg Nation.
The two pitchers that came over to the Reds in the trade were right handers Luis Castillo and Austin Brice. In the 2016 season with the Marlins, they both took on roles that were new to them as professionals. For both players it paid off in a big way.
Luis Castillo was the main piece in the trade. The now 24-year-old right hander has a big time arm with a fastball that’s touched 101 MPH. If you’re looking for a full scouting report I wrote about him in depth here. That’s not really what I want to get into with the right hander today, though some of that will come up here. In 2015 the right hander made a move to the rotation around the mid-season mark. In 2016 Castillo made the full on transition to the rotation, making 24 starts (and two appearances following a big league rehabber) on the season.
You don’t often see guys make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation at age 23 without previous experience as a starting pitcher. The Reds haven’t shied away from pitchers that have less “wear-and-tear” on their arms and tried making the move to full time starters over the last decade. While it hasn’t always worked out, it’s something they’ve tried more often than most other teams. The Marlins saw something that made them think that Castillo could make that move as well.
In his first full season as a starter he posted the lowest walk rate of his career. It’s not that he had a poor walk rate at any point in the past, but he walked just 4.8% of opposing batters on the season. His strikeout rate did drop off a little bit, but that’s to be expected. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was easily the best of his career. The ERA was also the best of his career, coming in at 2.26 in 131.2 innings pitched. The transition worked out so well that the right hander went from being unranked among the Marlins Top 30 Prospects entering 2016 by Baseball America to being ranked in the Top 100 overall prospects in all of baseball by ESPN yesterday.
Austin Brice went in the opposite direction in 2016 (if you’re interested in a full scouting report on him, I wrote one yesterday). The 24-year-old had been a starter for his entire career. He even began 2016 as a starter in Double-A Jacksonville. Brice made 13 starts before moving into the bullpen for the Suns in the middle of June. To say that the transition went well would be an understatement. Over his first 31 appearances as a reliever between Double-A, Triple-A and MLB he posted a 2.53 ERA in 42.2 innings with just eight walks and 44 strikeouts. Of course, his final three appearances in the big leagues put a bit of a damper on those numbers as he allowed six runs in 1.1 innings that really bumped up that ERA. Still, overall the transition to the new role seemed to work out very well.
It’s still yet to be seen how exactly the role switch will play out for Luis Castillo, who only has three starts above A-ball. The early returns have been very nice to see, even if we are simply looking back because the move didn’t happen with the Reds. For Austin Brice it took him from a middling starter to a mostly dominant reliever who moved quickly up the ladder.