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.