While the record didn’t quite indicate how good he really was, Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo had a fine 2020 campaign. Across 70 innings of work, he went just 4-6, but posted an 11.44 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, 0.64 HR/9, 3.21 ERA (2.65 FIP) and 1.23 WHIP. He was excellent and a slight shift in repertoire really benefited him last year. He improved across the board and while there’s still a slight level of predictability in his repertoire, the gap is closing, and that should allow him to continue to stymie the opposition.

I’d be remiss if the first thing I didn’t mention was the fact that Castillo posted a launch angle of a whopping 2.2 degrees. That’s exceptional. In fact, among all qualified pitchers, only three other pitchers had a lower launch angle than Castillo. On top of that, his average exit velocity on just ground balls of 82.1 miles per hour was the ninth-lowest. In Great American Small Park, avoiding fly balls is key, because that’s how you get hurt, and Castillo did just that.

Furthermore, Castillo was the only qualified pitcher in 2020 to post a strikeout rate above 30 percent, and a ground ball rate above 50 percent. Yes, his ground ball rate was up at 58.4 percent. The next closest was Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola , who posted a strikeout rate of 33.2 percent, and a ground ball rate of 49.7 percent. For the record, only seven qualified starters had a K%+GB% rate above 80 percent, and only three were above 85 percent.





Shane Bieber




Luis Castillo




Framber Valdez




Aaron Nola




Kenta Maeda




Jacob deGrom




Brandon Woodruff




Courtesy of Fangraphs

He threw his sinker more in 2020, and that pitch resulted in a launch angle of -8 degrees overall, but when the batter was behind in the count, that dropped to -17 degrees. This is a legitimate weapon in his arsenal and he doesn’t need this pitch to get whiffs. Batters can make contact all they want, it’s likely going into the ground, and he doesn’t allow hard contact on the ground. If this pitch continues to induce ground balls at this rate, good luck batters.

Castillo continues to be an excellent source of strikeouts, thanks in part to having three pitches in 2019 with whiff rates over 27 percent, and those same three pitches all being above 37 percent in 2020. When he gets ahead of batters, he’s coming at you with a lethal changeup that will make anyone look silly. If you ask me, I’d love to see his slider used more. His slider’s whiff rate of 43.4 percent was the highest of his four pitches, and 2020 was the first year it took over Castillo’s changeup as his best swing-and-miss pitch.

Speaking of his repertoire, take a look at what Baseball Savant describes as “Plinko,” highlighting the pitcher’s usage at each count.












When Castillo is ahead, his changeup is his best friend, and batters can expect that to come. However, you can see that on the left-hand side (Castillo being ahead), the gap is closing behind, and the four-seamer isn’t the clear-cut secondary option. That sinker is being used more and is becoming a legitimate weapon.

I still believe Castillo should look to that slider more, as it can only raise his strikeout ceiling. The whiff rate for his slider has been above 40 percent for three straight seasons and 2020’s 33.3 percent put away mark was just below his 2018 and 2019 marks added together! The Cincinnati righty has established a solid floor in the strikeout department, but mixing in that slider more when he’s ahead in the count could fare nicely for him.

At just 28 years young, Castillo is a fantasy ace and is going off the board as SP9, per NFBC data. In 15-team formats, he will likely cost you a second-rounder, or third if you’re lucky, but he’s worth it. There’s plenty of offense to back him up and if he continues to induce grounders over half of the time and strikeout nearly one-third of the batters he faces, he’s in line for a monster campaign. That will certainly help keep his ERA low, and perhaps in 2021 his ERA can be much closer to his FIP from 2020. While his home run rate likely won’t be as low as it was in 2020, it should definitely be close to his marks from 2017 (1.11 HR/9) and 2019 (1.04 HR/9).

Castillo is a young arm that you can feel confident in leading your rotation, and he’s an arm worth pushing up your draft board.

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