One Sentence Summary: There’s a long way to go before Castellani reaches a big league mound, but the early returns have been promising for this young right-hander.
Exactly 40 picks after the Rockies selected Kyle Freeland in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, they used another selection to take Castellani out of high school in Arizona. Castellani reported to Short Season A-Ball and the Tri-City Dust Devils, and since that time, he’s gone up one level each year, culminating with a season in High-A Modesto in 2016.
The word that seems to come up repeatedly when discussing Castellani is “polarizing”. His mechanics appear somewhat violent, and is full of moving pieces and parts. Some scouts love this and feel like it gives him an extra layer of deciption; others see it as a harbinger for future injury problems.
Here’s some footage of Castellani pitching last season. Note the old-school hands over the head wind-up mechanism and the way he leads towards the plate with his elbow rather than his glove, which is more typical.
If your first though watching Castellani pitch is “His delivery kind of looks like Max Scherzer“, you’re not alone in thinking that. J.R. House, manager for the Visalia Rawhide said the following about Castellani, “He’s kind of a clone of a Max Scherzer in the way he pitches… he has a really good arm (and) good stuff all the way around. He’s a babe in the game and he’s going to get stronger every offseason. ”
That line about growing stronger isn’t just lip service, either. Castellani added 15 pounds to his frame between the end of 2015 and the start of 2016. As a result, his fastball that previously sat right around 90 MPH started creeping closer to 95.
Perhaps more importantly than the increase in velocity though was the way Castellani was able to finish the year strong. Castellani threw 167.2 innings in 2016, over 50 more than the previous season. With that large of an increase in innings, some fatigue in August and September would be pretty typical. But Castellani was dominant down the stretch, going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his final seven starts.
For Castellani, the next step is conquering Double-A. The Rockies will likely have him spend most, if not all, of the 2017 season pitching for Hartford. Castellani will be one of the younger pitchers in Double-A, which is something he’s used to (he’s been about 3 years younger than the average player at each level he’s played at thus far).
The Rockies are no doubt hoping that for the fourth consecutive season, Castellani’s K/9 rate will increase. His slider was already considered a plus pitch, and if he can maintain the level of velocity he was showing last season, Castellani has a chance to be pretty special.
Again though, projecting Castellani’s future is a challenge. Even in the best case scenario, he’s still probably a few years away from the big leagues, and that’s if you’re projecting him to stay healthy and continue being effective (neither of which is guaranteed, obviously).
But if Castellani can go to the Eastern League and continue the steady progression he’s shown thus far in his career, the narrative around him will start to change from “polarizing prospect” to “prized prospect”.