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Luis Castillo Fantasy Outlook: Budding Ace With Attainable Areas of Growth

A lights-out changeup is the elite pitch carrying Cincinnati Reds pitcher Luis Castillo. SI Fantasy's Shawn Childs believes an improved command of his fastball would take him to new heights.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo pushed forward on his promising upside in 2019. He set career-highs and played his way into the hearts and minds of fantasy fans. While he had a jump in wins (15), ERA (3.40), and strikeouts (226), Castillo still left something to be desired.

His walk rate (3.7) inflated when considering his prior success (2.6) in 2018. Most disappointment should’ve been offset by a dramatic increase in his strikeout rate (10.7 – 8.8).

In his first 24 appearances, Castillo posted an 11-4 record with a 2.69 ERA, .192 BAA, and 172 strikeouts over 143.2 innings. He gave up two or fewer runs in 19 of those starts. Over his final eight starts, he shot himself in the foot with three blow-up games (18 runs and 27 baserunners over 15.1 innings and a 5.55 ERA), yet batters only hit .230 in those games.

He did improve his HR/9 rate (1.5 to 1.0 in 2019), and the damage in home runs (13 over 358 at-bats) mostly came from lefty hitters. Castillo provided an edge against right-handed hitters (.194) and lefties (.209). His average fastball (96.5) held firm between his last two seasons.

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Castillo’s strength came from a near-unhittable changeup (.129 BAA and 153 Ks over 295 at-bats) and a plus slider (.195 BAA). He mixes in a four-seam (.272 BAA) and sinker (.289 BA) and any improvement in those two pitches will yield huge results. His use of his fastball and sinker needs better location in the strike zone. A contributing factor with his struggle with command started with a decline in his first-pitch strike rate (56).

With improvement in walk rate and avoiding the big inning, Castillo should continue to round into an elite pitcher. He is on the verge of something special, especially if he can deliver 65-percent strikes. Better location with his fastball is key. Castillo is at his best when forcing hitters into grounders (55.2 percent – 52.0 in his career), yet his HR/FB rate (17.9) is a clear weakness and holding him back. A tempting ace with an ADP of 44. I’m projecting a sub-2.50 ERA with about 250 strikeouts.

READ MORE: 2020 Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Team Preview

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