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The Orioles are unlikely to sell on Miguel Castro’s potential just yet

Castro may have the velocity and the movement, but he’s also been dogged by inconsistency.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

How is this guy still so young? Orioles’ reliever Miguel Castro is only 24 years old. While his inconsistency may be unnerving, at the same time, he’s been known to flash filthy stuff on the mound.

It’s hard not to notice Castro — he’s the tallest player on the Orioles’ roster at 6 foot 7. Yet he tips the scales at just 205 pounds and throws a 97.1 mph sinker, compared to the MLB average of 92.2 mph on that particular pitch.

The right-hander had a solid run during the middle portion of the 2019 season; it was the beginning and the very end of the year that marred Castro’s numbers. The first month of the season was his worst. In 14.2 innings he allowed 14 earned runs and had a WHIP of 1.90. There was some improvement once the calendar turned to May, as Castro’s ERA went down to 4.63 over 11.1 innings in that month and the WHIP dropped to 1.29.

From June to August, Castro put up ERAs of 2.87, 3.38 and 2.92. In September/October, he logged his fewest innings (8.1) of any month and his ERA was a bloated 5.40. In spite of that, Castro minimized baserunners en route to a 1.20 WHIP, and he also struck out more batters per nine innings (13) in that last month than any other this year.

All told, Castro had an ERA of 4.66 (4.73 FIP) in 2019, which is the highest of his three years in Oriole black and orange. In 2017 his ERA was 3.53 and in 2018 it was 3.96. He appeared in 65 games out of the bullpen this past season, throwing 73.1 innings with a 1.42 WHIP, 7.7 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 5.0 BB/9, 8.7 SO/9 and 1.73 SO/W.

To acquire Castro, the Orioles traded a player to be named later to the Rockies in April of 2017, which was the penultimate year of the Dan Duquette/Buck Showalter era. The PTBNL was pitcher Jon Keller, who joined the Rockies organization in September of 2017 and was assigned to the Asheville Tourists. His MiLB page says his status is active, but I can’t find any evidence that he’s thrown a pitch since he left the Orioles’ farm system. So in a way, one could say the Orioles got Castro for nothing.

Going all the way back to the start of Castro’s career, he was signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, according to Baseball Reference. He made his major league debut in 2015 at the age of 20 and was traded to the Rockies later that same year. In two years between the Blue Jays and Rockies, Castro had a 6.12 ERA, 5.58 FIP and 1.67 WHIP over 32.1 innings.

As far as Castro’s future with the O’s, two things are working in his favor: his age and his electric stuff. At the very least, that will make the Orioles inclined to keep him around as they climb the mountain back towards contention status. It’s easier to keep a player based on potential for now as opposed to several years down the road, when the roster’s holes will have to be plugged and potential cedes to performance.

But his lack of control and inconsistency are a few considerable questions marks. Take a look at his walk numbers: 4.7 BB/9 in his career and 5.0 this past year. Relief pitching tends to be volatile, with a given player’s performance sometimes looking drastically different from one year to the next. But after three years of mostly up-and-down performances, isn’t there enough data to make an educated guess about a particular player’s value and realize there’s probably better options out there?

There was even a time when the Orioles considered making Castro a starter. But that idea has not been uttered in some time. Plus, it seems like the Birds always want Castro to be a shutdown late inning reliever, but he has not been able to prove himself there. This past season alone he performed markedly worse the later he was in the game. His ERA was 2.92 in the sixth inning, 3.52 in the seventh, 4.63 in the eighth and 6.61 in the ninth.

So Castro will probably be afforded more time to prove himself to the current Orioles regime and thereby stick around during the rebuild. But nothing is guaranteed long-term, obviously, unless he is able to buck his inconsistency. Castro is not a bad pitcher by any means, but the question becomes, is he the type of difference maker to have a place on the next competitive Orioles team? And where we stand today, that doesn’t seem likely.