Why the Toronto Blue Jays are crazy for considering Miguel Castro for Opening Day roster
Let’s get this out of the way first – I’m a big fan of Miguel Castro. I’ve been tracking his process since he debuted stateside in 2013 after tearing up the Dominican Summer League as an 18-year-old.
Castro, now 20, has been the recipient of some major hype during this year’s spring training, which of course is very well deserved. However when I read things like this, I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief.
Like I said, I’m a fan of Castro. His fastball is electric, his cambio will flash plus and he’ll even spot a slurvy slider on occasion. Some extra weight will likely be needed to hold up as a starter but at 6’5 with long arms the lean right-hander is a towering presence on the mound.
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The problem, if you can call it that, is that he’s already good enough to get major league hitters out. With more questions than answers in the bullpen right now it seems, at least based on his public comments, like Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos is willing to give Castro a look for the Opening Day roster.
I will admit that there is some credence to the idea of “taking the best team north”. Based on their position on the win curve, many people think if Castro is one of the Jays’ 12 (or 13) best pitchers he should make the team.
Here’s why that’s a problem.
Castro could be (and in many ways, already is) a diamond in the rough for the Blue Jays. He wasn’t heralded as a huge prospect out of the Dominican as evidenced by his $180,000 signing bonus. However if it all comes together, the Jays could have a bonafide stud in their rotation for years to come.
The minor leagues exist (primarily) to service the needs of their respective major league affiliates. It’s a training ground for young players where the results, as in wins and losses, and to a certain degree even performance, don’t matter as much as at the big league level. This is where a pitcher like Castro, who is still very much very rough around the edges, should start the 2015 baseball season.
The minor leagues exist (primarily) to service the needs of their respective major league affiliates. It’s a training ground for young players where the results, as in wins and losses, and to a certain degree even performance, don’t matter as much as at the big league level.
This is where a pitcher like Castro, who is still very much very rough around the edges, should start the 2015 baseball season. He can continue to work on his command and secondary offerings without the pressure of a playoff push on his (right) shoulder ever time he takes the ball.
If he were to make the roster, it’s likely the Jays wouldn’t want to use him in high leverage situations right out of the gate. Those situations can’t always be controlled for obviously and there could be a situation (or situations) where Castro doesn’t pitch for a week because of tight games or, less likely, stellar rotation work.
He could obviously move up (or out of) the pecking order based on his performance but even in the best case scenario it’s unlikely he would get a chance to work on and develop all of his pitches.
In the minors he can continue to take the ball every five days and if he’s assigned to Dunedin he would work with arguably (or not) the best pitching coach in the Jays’ system, Vince Horsman. Horsman helped Daniel Norris get his game turned around in Lansing after Norris scuffled early in his minor league career and the hope is he’ll have a similar effect on Castro, although it doesn’t seem like he’ll need nearly as much refinement.
Castro pitched 80 innings last season, which means the Jays are likely aiming for 110-120 this season to keep building his endurance to eventually start. As Jay Blue noted watching Castro pitch last season, he tended to wear down and “wasn’t finishing his pitches” later in games. He’ll need to keep building his stamina and there’s no way he reaches that target for innings pitched working out of the bullpen for an entire season.
It’s somewhat cliche but Castro is still very much a “thrower” than a “pitcher”. There’s a chance he refines his craft at the major league level but, thrown into the fire too early, there’s probably a better chance he learns simply how to survive rather than thrive.
And then there’s this.
Drew Hutchison did make only 16 starts above High-A and he seems to be doing just fine but you get the point (and it wasn’t without a cost).
There are other issues at play we haven’t even touched on, such as service time as the Jays would get an extra year of control over Castro by simply waiting three or four weeks to call him up and would avoid potential Super Two issues by waiting a couple of months. I don’t want to stress this point because people get sticky about things like this and I’ll admit in certain cases young arms become a diminishing asset that shouldn’t be held back too long if they are ready.
It’s possible AA is pumping up Castro as trade bait but I think it’s more likely he’s legitimately excited about his young pitcher’s future. If this is his last kick at the can, as many have come to assume it will be without at least a wild card appearance, with a tight budget to work with and thinning pitching depth it’s also fair to expect Alex to pull out all the stops.
However promoting Miguel Castro on Opening Day would be going too far in my opinion. Maybe he was just trolling us with his comments but to me, this is the test for AA. In no way whatsoever do I doubt the integrity of the Blue Jays’ GM but if he does decide to break camp with Castro on the 25-man, he would be likely best served to accompany it with the ultimate sell job.