Two Years Later, Luis Castillo Now One of MLB's Top Pitchers

National League All-Star, Reds standout, dazzled for Blue Wahoos in 2017 leading to big league rise

Luis Castillo, shown pitching for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in June 2017, has taken a meteoric rise as the Cincinnati Reds top starter and one of baseball's best pitchers. (Photo Courtesy of Pensacola News Journal)

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | July 8, 2019 6:18 PM

In what became his final start on June 13, 2017 for the Blue Wahoos, Luis Castillo carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 5-0 win against the Mississippi Braves.

He repeated the feat July 4 in Cincinnati, his final start for the Reds before Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, in a 1-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

It's led to conversation about the 26-year-old Castillo being the best pitcher in the National League, worthy of Cy Young consideration.

That's the meteoric rise he's taken since dazzling in Pensacola.

Two years of maturity, along with developing a changeup pitch now viewed as one of the best changeups in the game, has led Castillo into a fast track of stardom. He was the Cincinnati Reds' opening day starter this season. If the Reds had a No. 1 in their rotation, it would be Castillo.

His season statistics, which including an 8-3 record, rank among the best of any pitcher in the major leagues. It's expected the Castillo will be part of the National League pitchers used Tuesday night in the 90th MLB All-Star Game.

And so much of the launch occurred in Pensacola, which took him that season into a MLB debut for the Reds on June 23, 2017.

His fastball still flirts with 100 mph early in games, but Castillo now has even better command of it. The velocity makes his 87.7 mph changeup look slow in comparison.

That was evident in his last start when he worked 7.2 innings, allowing just one hit, against the Brewers' dangerous lineup. He struck out nine, walked one in his longest outing this season.

"Not only the whole year… I think it's the best outing of my career," said Castillo, speaking to media members in Cincinnati after that game. "I was competing and everything was going well."

Castillo has not allowed a run in four of his starts this season. His 2.29 earned run average is the second best in the National League. He leads the Reds' pitching staff in wins, strikeouts and innings pitcher.

During his time in Pensacola, Castillo worked with then-Blue Wahoos pitching coach Danny Darwin, a long-time former MLB pitcher, to develop an effective slider.

At the time, the Reds were seen as a possible last chance team. He was first signed in 2011 by the San Francisco Giants out of the Dominican Republic. He was then traded in 2014 to the Miami Marlins organization, where he spent two seasons in 2015-16 before getting traded to the Reds in 2017.

"He's a guy who has been traded a couple times and you wonder why," said former Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly at the time. "And the Marlins people said, 'We didn't think he was starter, he was a reliever.' But one of the reasons (Reds) send these guys here (Blue Wahoos) is that Danny is so good at teaching the slider and I think that's going to make the difference (in career).

"If he can have that kind of slider, then he can start in any league."

That assessment in June 2017 became so prophetic about Castillo's career.


This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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