Baltimore Orioles pitcher Miguel Castro will finally get his chance to prove himself as a full-time starting pitcher.
Castro, 23, is among the eight pitchers that will make starts during Spring Training. Castro, along with penciled-in starters Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, as well as Gabriel Ynoa and Mike Wright, who are out of minor league options, minor leaguer Hunter Harvey, plus Rule 5 draftees Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa Jr. will make all starts in the Grapefruit League.
After being traded from the Colorado Rockies for minor league pitcher Jon Keller, Castro pitched solidly last season in the Majors, which has lead the organization to believe that he should at least be looked at to start. Baltimore only has Bundy and Gausman who are locks to start. Everyone else’s position in the rotation is a toss up.
The biggest question for Castro is: Is he ready to become a Major League starting pitcher?
The fourth-year starter went 3-3 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.221 WHIP in 66.1 innings pitched. He also struck out 38 batters and walked 28, finishing with a 0.9 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Per nine innings, Castro has a 5.2 rate in strikeouts, a 3.8 rate in walks, a 1.09 rate in home runs and batters only hit .217 against him.
Those numbers are very solid, but they don’t tell the entire story.
He would fall off of the wagon in September, pitching to a 7.04 ERA in 15.1 innings worked. It could have been due to fatigue because Castro only pitched 30.1 innings in 2016 and 38.1 innings in 2015. That’s a much larger workload to take up, especially with being a younger pitcher. The issue is that he will have an even larger amount of innings to pitch as a starter.
There is a bright side though.
If Castro is used as a starter, he will have to be stretched out much more than he has in the past. For Castro, he will have all Spring Training to build his arm strength and we can assume that he prepared for the departure of Wade Miley, Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeremy Hellickson, in addition with his lone start in September, to become a starter in 2018.
Baltimore can decide to put Castro in the bullpen and give him spot starts. Though there may be unrest by fans and others to rush Castro to a full-time starting role, the Orioles haven’t had the greatest of success with younger starting pitchers, often bringing them up too quickly and then discouraging them with a move to the minors. The Orioles don’t need to rush Castro and bringing him along slowly, much like they did with Bundy in 2016, it could prove more valuable for his growth as a starting pitcher.
In addition, the Orioles haven’t finished constructing their roster yet, as there are many starting pitchers who are available on the open market. Starting pitchers Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia and others are still left in free agency. Baltimore could easily sign another pitcher who could carry more of the workload, until Castro is fully ready to become a starter.
Let’s revisit my original question. Is Castro ready to become a Major League starting pitcher?
No that answer isn’t a cop out, but the key is that he doesn’t have to be ready to become a starter in the Majors, if the Orioles sign another pitcher and bring him up. They will have to monitor his innings and slowly allow him to work on his pitches. If he is ready to make his move on a starting role now, then he deserves his chance. If he isn’t ready, it’s not quite the end of the world for the Orioles.