Orioles reliever Miguel Castro has started the 2019 season the exact wrong way. Over 11 2/3 innings, the right-hander has given up 14 earned runs, 19 hits, three home runs, and seven walks, while striking out nine batters.
He was never a dominant pitcher, but has shown the potential to become one out of the bullpen. Since being dealt to the Orioles, he has posted a 3.53 ERA in 2017 and 3.96 ERA in 2018.
Per Brooks Baseball, His average fastball velocity over his years in Baltimore are 96.12, 95.96 and 97.03 mph in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. He maxed out his velocity at 100.99 mph in 2017. He throws so hard that his change-up sits in the 90’s. Yes, 90’s. For comparison, O’s reliever Richard Bleier hasn’t thrown a fastball above 90.82 mph since 2017.
Castro’s velocity gap increases his slider, though, which he typically throws in the mid-80s. That and the change-up have been his most effective pitches in his career thus far.
You would think a pitcher of Castro’s caliber would have great strikeout numbers, but that’s far from the case. Since joining the O’s in 2017, his K/9 rate has been a low 5.70 over 164 1/3 innings.
The six-foot-seven right-hander just turned 24 years old, so he’s still young enough to turn this season, and his career, around. I would love to see him become a dominant relief arm. But before we try to get to that point, how do we get him back to the average reliever he was prior to 2019? What has changed?
Castro has had issues with command in the past, but this season it’s gotten worse. He has thrown a lot of balls, and when he does throw strikes, they’re hanging over the middle of the plate. In 2017, Castro “grooved” 3.88 percent of his fastball. He grooved 4.95 percent of his fastballs in 2018, and is now up to 6.96 percent so far this season.
He noted on Tuesday that he has an idea of what adjustments he needs to make to get back on track. Here’s what he said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon, via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com:
“I’ve been watching a lot of videos recently and I’ve noticed there is a difference in the past and right now,” he said, “so I’m going to work with my pitching coach (Doug Brocail) to make the adjustment and make the adjustment in my pitching mechanics.”
What the right-hander is talking about is his arm slot. Here are two screencaps via MLB.com video — the first from 2017 and the latter from Monday night’s game against the White Sox.
As you see in the shots above, Castro delivered from more of a three-quarter arm slot in 2017, and has dropped to what is now a nearly sidearm delivery.
Brooks Baseball backs this up, revealing that Castro has gradually made this release point change over the last few years.
I noticed this change in Castro’s arm slot prior to him revealing it to MASNsports.com. At the time, though, I wondered if it was something he was actually working on. But now that he’s admitted the change in his mechanics and wants to revert back to his old ways, that tells me this wasn’t a voluntary adjustment.
I’m looking forward to seeing if Castro can rebound once he feels comfortable going back to his old, more vertical, release point. In spring training, an anonymous scout opined to Kubatko that Castro has “closer stuff,” and the scout showed significant interest in the movement Castro creates on top of the high velocity.
When he’s pitching well, Castro is quite fun to watch and his stuff is nasty. I do believe he can become a late-inning, high-leverage reliever one day.
But for now, I just want to see if this adjustment can get him back to his 2017 ways for now. Keep an eye on Castro’s release point during his next few outings, and see if the results change at all.
We can go from there.