Well if there’s one way to know that Opening Day really is just around the corner, its new Reds manager David Bell announcing his Opening Day starting pitcher, 26-year-old righty Luis Castillo. Acquired in the 2017 offseason from the Marlins in exchange for Dan Straily, Castillo is a relative veteran of a Reds rotation that saw quite the face-lift this past offseason, with the additions of three proven, solid pitchers in Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood. Gray and Roark will follow Castillo in the rotation, with Wood joining in a couple weeks once his nagging back soreness clears up. Even after all those additions, Reds fans continued to clamor for the front office to acquire an ace. If you asked me, I’d tell you the Reds have already got one in the making in Luis Castillo.
Every one of La Piedra’s starts the past two seasons has been appointment viewing for me. As a guy who loves pitching, his mechanics and his stuff are just a joy to watch. Though he’s been volatile, with the chance of getting shelled or being completely unhittable every night, he’s always fun to watch. Luis seemed to get things figured out in September last season, to a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.09 and 34 Ks. As a streaky pitcher, he seems to be a guy who feeds off confidence, so what better way to kick off his 2019 than at the front of a very strong rotation? He’s got an elite fastball and perhaps the best changeup in the game. Working with new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, he’s only going to develop those pitches more and has even refined a new curveball this offseason to add another wrinkle to his mix.
Castillo led the 2018 Reds starters in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts, though his 4.30 ERA and a couple bad months hide what was otherwise a truly masterful season. His fastball averages over 97 mph – very rare for a starter. His changeup draws more empty swings than any other starter in baseball, plus he has an elite ground-ball rate. He’s stayed under the radar these last two years (though he did receive Rookie of the Year votes in 2017) but with a little bit of consistency and thanks to playing for a much improved team, I fully expect the national baseball landscape to really get to know Luis Castillo over the 2019 season.
Already an elite swing and miss pitcher and still only 26, the sky is the limit for this guy. Giving him the ball on Opening Day even after bringing in guys like former Cy Young contender Sonny Gray is a huge vote of confidence in the young man and I’m beyond excited to see him face off against the Pirate’s ace Jameson Taillon next week. I could continue to bring in advanced stats and disgusting GIFs of him making guys look silly, but I’ll cut it short here. Luis Castillo has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the National League this year. He’s starting on Opening Day. That’s next Thursday. Wow! It’s finally here. Excitement is back for Red’s baseball, and this announcement was the boiling point for me. David Bell really knows what he’s doing. I’m flying in from Texas next week just for Opening Day and I get to see my favorite pitcher take the hill, which I genuinely did not expect. See you all at Holy Grail Thursday morning. It’s gonna be a good one.