In a season riddled with disappointments in both the rotation and the bullpen, Miguel Castro has been a pleasant surprise as a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles. It’s especially true when you consider he was DFA’ed by Colorado prior to Opening Day and picked up for essentially nothing.
Since being recalled on June 30th, the 22-year-old righty has made eight appearances with an ERA of only 2.53 while holding opposing hitters to a batting average of only .231.
Along with Richard Bleier, Castro has become a mainstay in the Orioles’ bullpen with the two of them slotting right behind the Givens/O’Day/Brach/Britton tandem when healthy. Showalter recently downplayed discussions regarding using Bleier as a starter saying that he’d “Hate to mess with it,” but sang a different tune when discussing Miguel Castro.
It’s not as crazy as you may think. There’s some sense behind the madness, and the Orioles will certainly have a need for starters next season.
A starter turned reliever
Once upon a time, Castro was a starting pitching prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. In 2013, Castro was awarded the Webster Award as the Blue Jays’ top minor league player at his level for his performance in the Dominican Summer League as an 18-year-old.
The next year, Castro went 8-3 with an ERA of only 2.69 as a starter at all three levels of Class A ball. He quickly became a top-10 prospect in the Jays’ system known for his big arm.
Following his 19-year-old season in Class A, Castro surprisingly made the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster in 2015 and even began the year as the team’s closer. He later started a handful of games in the minors following a demotion, but for the most part, Castro has been used as a reliever ever since.
This year, Castro has been working his improved changeup into the mix more and more. It used to be one of his best out pitches as a starter in the minors, but took a back seat with his conversion to a fastball/slider reliever. Castro used to work with a full mix of pitches before being thrust into the Jays’ bullpen after only five starts above low-A ball. The changeup’s return shows a glimpse into why Castro was once seen as having top of the rotation potential.
It makes sense to at least see what Castro could provide out of the starting staff in the future. The start to his career was never the all too common case of a failed starter being salvaged as a reliever. If anything, Castro’s quick rise to the big leagues resembled Gausman’s promotion to the Orioles’ bullpen in 2013. The difference is Castro was never given another shot as a starter.
Someone has to start for the 2018 Orioles
Right now, you can pencil Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman into the Orioles’ 2018 rotation. That’s it. Ubaldo’s contract will finally be up, sparking parades and celebration from Edgewater to York, PA. Chris Tillman will also hit the free agent market, and Miley’s $12M team option is all but guaranteed to be declined.
The Orioles will presumably add at least one starter through free agency, but their recent lack of success in the market doesn’t provide much confidence to fans.
Even if the Birds add a shoe-in starter over the winter, 40% of the rotation will still be up for grabs. Alec Asher will get a look, and lord knows Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson will be hanging around along with some other AAAA arms, but the staff will have two open spots.
Why not throw Castro into the mix? Worst case scenario, the O’s can still pencil him back into the bullpen. Depending on how the 2017 trade deadline goes, it should have some openings too.
Judging by Showalter’s inclusion of arms like Tanner Scott and Jesus Liranzo into the same conversation, it seems like the front office is well aware of the team’s obvious need for starting pitching going forward. It’s anybody’s guess as to how it will unfold, but Castro seems to have the support of Buck. Look at this quote referring to Castro.
"He's a sharp kid. He's smart. He's a watcher of the game. He watches in between innings in the dugout. He sees every pitch. If you go out there and ask him about a situation the next day that occurred in the game, he'll know exactly what's going on. He's engaged. That bodes well for him."
That’s pretty much the best praise anyone can get from the Orioles skipper. It checks all of his boxes from top to bottom for what he likes in a major league baseball player.
If Showalter thinks Castro has a potential as a starter, you can bet that he’ll get his chances as long as he stays on the manager’s good side. I’ve learned never to get optimistic when it comes to Orioles starting pitchers, but I’m with Buck. Castro represents an intriguing option going forward on a team that doesn’t have very many.