On Sunday, the Yankees dealt lefty Joely Rodríguez to the Mets in exchange for righty flame-thrower Miguel Castro. I remember when Castro debuted as a 20-year-old with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 alongside Roberto Osuna. At the time, the Jays genuinely thought he had the stuff to be a big time closer, but after a rough go of things he was flipped at the trade deadline in the deal that brought Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. His career hasn’t exactly been stellar up to this point, but a decent showing for the Mets in 2021 certainly got the Yankees attention. Let’s see what the team is getting.
2021 Stats: 69 games, 70.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, 1.29 WHIP, 25.4% K%, 14.2% BB%, 0.90 HR/9, 0.1 fWAR
2022 ZiPS Projections: 69 games, 72.3 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 10.82 K/9, 5.23 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 0.1 fWAR
Let’s start with the good.
Miguel Castro throws hard with a ton of movement. In 2022, his sinker averaged 98 MPH with an above average level of both horizontal and vertical movement. His fastball velocity ranks in the 98th percentile, and as a result of his excellent combination of velocity and movement, he generates a ton of whiffs. He also generates a ton of soft contact. In fact, the average exit velocity on his pitches ranked in the 93rd percentile last year, while his hard hit rate was in the 85th. He does this by working predominantly down in the zone with his sinker, which results in a ton of groundballs (52 percent in 2021).
Though his sinker is a solid pitch, his crown jewel is his wipeout slider, which averaged 85.7 mph last year and has a truly elite amount of horizontal break.
The #Yankees added this pitch to their bullpen today.— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) April 3, 2022
Miguel Castro's slider produced a 41.5% whiff rate in 2021. Opponents hit .131 against it with 48 strikeouts (he throws it 35.3% of the time). pic.twitter.com/NB0TLpyYfb
As if those whiff and opponent numbers against weren’t impressive enough, the fact that he actually threw it so frequently made it even better. In addition to opponents hitting just .131 against it, they slugged just .222 on his slider with a .208 wOBA. Last year, the pitch posted a -7 run value according to Statcast.
Now that we know what he does well, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: his walk rate. In parts of seven seasons in the majors, Castro has a walk percentage of 12.4 percent. Out of all qualified relievers last year, Castro ranked ninth-worst in this category. If he wants to become a key part of this bullpen, he’s going to need to drastically improve his command.
With that being said, know who else had impressive stuff with very solid metrics but struggled with command until they came to New York and worked with Matt Blake, which in turn revitalized their career and turned them into a trusted reliever for Aaron Boone down the stretch? Clay Holmes. (And, to a slightly lesser extent, Wandy Peralta.) This move is likely going to fly under-the-radar because he’s not going to be one of the main attractions in the Yankees’ bullpen, but, much like the deals for Holmes and Peralta, this one is a very high-upside move for basically no risk.
Now, I’m not saying that Miguel Castro is going to be the next Holmes and suddenly pitch to a 1.61 ERA with a 33 percent strikeout percentage and 3.9 percent walk percentage, but if anyone can get his control issues under... er... control, it’s Matt Blake. Castro likely will not be used in high leverage spots, but, oddly enough, he was equally effective against both righties and lefties last year, so he’s already a marked improvement over Rodríguez. He is still young with plenty of life in his arm, so this was the exact type of deal you want to see a team make for a low-leverage reliever that has the stuff and the potential to develop into so much more.
With Opening Day right around the corner, Castro finds himself on his third American League East team in seven years in the majors. Despite playing in the league since 2015, though, Castro is still just 27 years old. And, though he’s likely not slated to be a late-inning guy for New York, his arm is absolutely intriguing enough to take a chance on. Can Matt Blake work his magic with another wild bullpen arm like he did with Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta last year? We’re just going to have to wait and see.