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Cincinnati Reds: Grading Luis Castillo’s breakout season

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 16: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 16, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 16: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 16, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Luis Castillo became the pitcher many Cincinnati Reds fans hoped he would become upon his arrival to the big leagues in 2017.

It’s hard to imagine the 2019 season beginning any better for Luis Castillo.  Despite the Cincinnati Reds slow start (1-8), Castillo turned in one dominant performance after another. Capturing the National League Pitcher of the Month honors for March/April, the 26-year-old right-hander went 3-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his first seven starts.

Those numbers don’t even begin to tell the complete story of his dominance. Tossing 43.1 innings over those seven starts, Castillo fanned 50 while only surrendering two home runs. In addition, he compiled a microscopic 0.99 WHIP during the opening month of the 2019 season.

His early season exploits earned Castillo his first trip to the All-Star Game. Entering the Midsummer Classic with a 8-3 mark and a 2.29 ERA, his inclusion was more than well-deserved.  Castillo did not disappoint when called upon to pitch the bottom of the 4th inning at Progressive Field. Throwing 15 pitches, he punched out Carlos Santana and J.D. Martinez in route to a perfect frame.

B +. . RHP. Cincinnati Reds. LUIS CASTILLO

However, the second half was not as kind to La Piedra. Making 15 starts, Castillo went 7-5 with an elevated 4.78 ERA. The long ball became the biggest source of frustration for the three-year veteran. Opposing hitters took Castillo deep 13 times in just 84.2 innings. This follows a first half in which he yielded just nine round trippers in 106 innings.

If there’s one area in which you would hope to see improvement from Luis Castillo in 2020, it would be his ability to avoid walking opposing hitters. His 3.73 BB/9 rate was a career-high and well above the NL average of 2.99 mark for all starters.

One positive to emerge from the second half is that Castillo reduced his BB/9 rate to 2.76 following a 4.50 mark posted pre-All-Star break. Nevertheless, La Piedra’s 79 free passes were the sixth highest total in the National League.

Despite the high walk totals, Castillo had a very good 2019 season. In addition to his All-Star appearance, Castillo became the first Reds hurler since Johnny Cueto in 2014 to win at least 15 games in a season. Finishing the campaign 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA, the right-hander finished in the Top 10 in the National League in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched.

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The scary thing for NL hitters is the fact that Luis Castillo is just now beginning to hint at his potential. There’s no reason to believe at 26 years of age that La Piedra is even close to reaching his ceiling. Don’t be surprised if one day we look back at his 2019 campaign as an average season Luis Castillo.

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