Lendy Castillo's chances to make Cubs continue to improve

Lendy Castillo was unique as a Rule 5 pick.  Most players are available because they've spent 4-5 years in the minors without showing enough progress to make the 40 man roster.  Even the best Rule 5 picks, like  former Cub Ryan Flaherty, tend to have lower ceilings because of their modest progression up the minor league ladder. Castillo, however, has only had 2 years to prove he can pitch, but because he spend his first 3 years as a SS, the total amount of years he's spent as a pro since he signed is 5 years. His time was up.  He had to either be put on the 40 man roster or get exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies chose to leave him exposed despite some promising statistics and a fastball that has touched 96 mph. The Phillies didn't think any team would select a pitcher who has only been pitching for 2 years and has yet to pitch above Class A.

But the Cubs did.

What makes Castillo unique is that he essentially has had two minor league careers.  One as a failed hitter and the other as a promising pitcher who has made a lot of progress in just two years.  Strictly as a pitcher, he's not a guy who's taking a long time to get through the minor league system -- he did advance to High Class A in just his "second" season, so there seems to be quite a bit more upside left than most Rule 5 picks.

He's still a work in his progress.  His command is better than you would think for a pitcher with his limited experience and undoubtedly his tremendous athleticism is a factor there.  He has the makings of a solid breaking pitch, but right now he's heavily reliant on his fastball.

So far this spring he has impressed manager Dale Sveum with his arm strength and his mental makeup,

"(Castillo) acts like he’s been out there before. He’s got a fastball that doesn’t seem to get squared up too much. He’s interesting.”

Although it's a tiny sample size, his numbers have backed that talk up as Castillo has given up one run in 6 innings while striking out 7.  He hasn't allowed a lot of base runners with 3 walks and just 2 hits allowed, giving him a WHIP of just 0.83.

If you look squarely from a roster management standpoint, however, there is no room for Castillo...yet.  If you assume the Cubs will have a 12 man staff with 5 starters and 7 bullpen arms.  For simplicity's sake, let's assume Chris Volstad and Randy Wells make the rotation as the fourth and fifth starters.  That leaves your bullpen looking like this:

  • Carlos Marmol (closer)
  • Kerry Wood
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • James Russell
  • Trever Miller (or Scott Maine or Travis Wood)
  • Marcos Mateo (out of options)
  • Frankie De La Cruz (out of options), Lendy Castillo (Rule 5), or Rafael Dolis

If Travis Wood finishes strong and makes the rotation, that complicates things further as that makes Randy Wells an additional bullpen arm and he is out of options as well.  I've written earlier that this scenario could also make Randy Wells a trade chip.

But keeping with this simpler scenario, it appears that Castillo could be fighting primarily with De La Cruz for that last spot.  The Cubs will probably lose one of them for good no matter which pitcher loses out --unless De La Cruz clears waivers or the Cubs make a minor deal with the Phillies to be able to keep Castillo without having him on the 40 man roster.  Rafael Dolis has impressed Dale Sveum and were it based strictly on current talent, he'd probably have one of the spots locked up by now but as I mentioned yesterday, it's not always about talent or spring performance.

I think if spring training were to end today, the Cubs would send Dolis to AAA, and keep either Castillo or De La Cruz as the last man out of the bullpen.  That would mean they'd lose at least one of their power arms, but considering that the Cubs have had a drain on hard-throwing RH relief pitchers recently (Cashner, Carpenter, and Kurcz), the Cubs may be wheeling and dealing at the end of the spring to see if they can find a way to keep all three.


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  • Levine speculated the rotation would be Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad and Smarj. Saying Wood likely will start at AAA.Also roster likely to be set by end of next weekend.

  • In reply to Cliffy46405:

    With all due respect to Levine, I think it's a little early to assume all of that. I'll buy that Volstad has earned a spot, but I'm really not sure Shark has done that yet. He hasn't even gone 5 innings yet. Will his velo hold up? I think it will, but I wouldn't want to make a decision on that at this point without having seen it with my own two eyes.

  • Agreed - I like the idea of Samard... making the rotation, high potential ceiling, but we still have almost three weeks until opening day (my B-Day, opening day is always a great present, regardless of wins and losses).

  • In reply to bruno14:

    Samardzija's stuff and improved command make him really intriguing. Could try him early and return him to the pen if you need to later. I'm going to be really interested to see how he does at the end of the spring when he goes longer and the MLB lineups stay in the game. If he continues to pitch well then, it's going to be hard to deny him a spot.

  • Good point. I have been wondering about Wells and Volstad in the same way. Wells has had first inning troubles in the past and that doesn't translate well to the bullpen. Has Volstad ever pitched out of the pen before? I like all three arms and would rather not lose any (without a significant return at least), especially if Dempster and/or Garza could be traded at some point. If any one of the three can serve well in relief until a spot opens, I see that as the best alternative.

    I also agree completely that these pitching decisions have to be made with an eye to holding on to the best arms if possible - roster management.

  • Hats off to the Cubs brain trust for taking a flyer on Castillo. Not to beat a dead horse here but we can be confident they leave no stones unturned when it comes to talent evaluation and scouting. I hope it works out and the kid and he finds a way to secure a roster spot.

    I'm a huge fan of Shark making the rotation for exactly what you mentioned John. They know what they have out of him in the pen. Give him a shot to see if his power arm and athleticism can translate into a top of the rotation pitcher. It will speed up the rebuilding process tremendously.

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    It's always a nice find if you can get yourself a good mid rotation starter or better for nothing, so why not if Samardzija shows he's up to the task.

  • I'm dismayed by the number of Cubs fans who want Samardzija sent to the bullpen. With the possible exception of Garza, he has the highest ceiling of any of the potential starters. He can always be sent back to the pen if he fails as a starter, so it's a low risk-high reward situation for the Cubs to establish another key part of their starting rotation for 2012 and beyond.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I think that's a sound argument. There isn't much to lose by trying. We know it didn't affect James Russell when he went back to the bullpen, if anything it made him better. Like I said, I want to see how Shark does later in the spring as far as maintaining velocity and command over more innings, but if he passes that test, I'm all for rolling the dice and seeing what happens.

  • I think we all recognize that the primary goal for 2012 is building the foundation for long-term success. I am really looking forward to the end of spring training, in order to see what moves TJ will make. Given the potential logjams in both parts of the pitching staff, moves will probably be made, and it will give us an even better idea of who and what they value long-term.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I'd be surprised if the Cubs didn't make a minor deal or two regarding with pitching at the end of the spring.

  • If the season were to begin today, here's how I'd make the pitching roster:

    * Samardzija at No. 5
    * Pen of Marmol, Wood, Russell, Castillo, Miller, Mateo and Lopez. (Waive Sonnanstine and De La Cruz to make room for Miller and Lopez.)
    * Trade Wells while his stock is high(ish)
    * Send Travis Wood, Dolis and Maine to Iowa

    I *think* that would work. I'm not crazy about dealing Wells without first giving him the chance to prove himself as a starter. Also, by waiting a month or so, other trade partners will realize their No. 5 starter wasn't as good as they hoped, meaning they'll be more desperate.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I think that's a pretty good guess at this point in the spring. I think Sonnanstine can be safely waived at this point, so he's the more likely candidate for me right now because the Cubs may get him back and stash him at AAA. De La Cruz is iffy because of more recent success and his good arm, but it's possible the Cubs value him more than other teams because of his relationship with Bosio.

  • There is absoltely no reason for Castillo to not make the team, sending him back would be a long term mistake. Personally this year is going to be at best a .500 team. In the short term I would rather the Cubs take the kids north , have the growing pains, lose the veteran dead weight, build the system. If they lose 100 games who cares, its more pool money and higher picks in the following year draft. Castillo has the stuff to be a future closer , You dont lose that type of talent to ensure a roster spot for a guy like Wells , Or any other lower ceiling guys. Hope TheoHoyer agree .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I tend to agree. I think the Cubs will find a way to keep Castillo and De La Cruz when all is said and done, though that would probably take making a deal. Wells is a possibility, but the Cubs could also see if they can make a deal with Philly and send Castillo to AA this season.

  • Looks like Hamilton, Beltre and Cruz will all be in the lineup for the Rangers in today's game against Samardzija. If he can make it through that middle part of the lineup twice without giving up runs, that'll be a big step toward earning a place in the rotation.

    By the same token, the Cubs are likely to stretch him out more in this start, and we'll see whether he can keep that 94 mph velocity and still keep hitters off balance when they've already seen him twice that same afternoon.

    I'm really rooting for Samardzija, but if I had to bet a million bucks, I'd bet that he gets battered today. He's had a lot of chances in the past several years to win that rotation job, but he always seems to stumble just when it's within his grasp.

  • Sharks line 4 IP ,, 1 er , 3 SO , 0 BB . Against the majority of Texas regulars . I just cant see him not earning a spot in the rotation . To Me I thin He should be in there and Castillo in the pen.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    The 0 BB is huge. Gave up three singles in the 4th, but he rallied nicely to get out Beltre and Cruz. I'm not sure Shark won the No. 5 job today, but he definitely didn't lose it.

    This isn't a team that's going all-in to win a pennant this year. The Cubs can afford to have Samardzjija scuffle while he's learning the nuances of being a starter, and maybe you discover a No. 2 or 3 starter for a good club. That possibility is much more exciting than the alternative, which is a year of Wells and a 4 - 5 ERA.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Command is crazy this year. Where did it come from?

  • I hope and think they find a way to keep De La Cruz and Castillo. I wouldn't mind them moving Wells, however I doubt it with Theo really stressing rotation (depth) options. Wonder if Castillo could turn out to be another Marmol type who was quickly converted to pitcher?

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Tom, is DeLa Cruz pretty good.....I don't know much about him but he is in his late 20's

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    John put up a piece on him a few posts ago. He certainly has the potential to make an impact in the pen, and feels like he had his best success with Bosio while in Mil.

  • Miller self-immolated against the Rangers. 1ip 4 h, 5 er and a homer, but he didn't walk anyone. Meanwhile, Maine gives up a hit and a walk but no runs, bringing his spring ERA under 2.

    If this regime wants to stress control, then I still think it's worth giving Miller a mulligan and sending Maine to Iowa. Let Miller be a tutor to the younger guys in the pen. Let Maine (4 BBs in 4.2 IP) continue to work on his control.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Do you think it's worth using a roster spot for Miller over Maine? I think if it's at all close, you give the job to Maine, send Miller to Iowa as insurance. If Maine falters, you make the switch. I don't know. It's going to be a close call.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If there's only one roster spot, then definitely Maine holds onto it, because he's the one with a future. But I figure that Maine stays on the 40-man roster, heads to Iowa, and Miller takes the spot of Sonnanstine or De La Cruz.

  • Cubs lost a split squad againt the A's 4-3. Vitters error in the first lead to three unearned runs and he hit into two double plays. Luck of the Irish not with Vitters today. It was good seeing a lot of the kids in the Cubs lineup today. The future looks bright.

  • In reply to AZBOB:

    Thanks for the scoop Bob. Any of the kids impress out there?

  • What's holding up Soler's free agency?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Lots of red tape, it seems. It's really dragging out.

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    When are you doing a Vegas recap? I went to the game today and was so excited to share what I saw! Don't leave me hanging!

  • In reply to mblum876:

    Nice...I had a niece/nephew birthday today and missed the games. Maybe tomorrow...anything to share?

  • fb_avatar

    Yes, Shark's line was 4 IP with 1 er and 3 hits, but keep in mind that he was perfect through 3.

  • In reply to mblum876:

    I'd be curious to know about his velocity in the 4th.

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    John, if you are going to hack my photo please at least give me the photo credit. Here's the original;
    Thank you,
    Joe Wombough

  • In reply to Joe Wombough:

    My apologies. I have another picture I can use from a site we know. People come here to read the content anyway, so photo isn't as important to me.

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