Name: Simon Castro
DOB: April 9, 1988
What has all the player development people giddy?
"He is, no doubt, the player with the highest ceiling that we have right now in the Dominican Republic," international scout Felix Francisco said. "He is 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, 220-pounds with an excellent body."
An 18-year-old right-hander out of the Padres Dominican Summer League team, Castro came to the states for the Instructional League and we were on hand for his stateside debut.
In that lone inning of work he showed veteran poise and confidence, working quickly and retiring the side in order.
Castro pitched to three batters, inducing a ground out, a pop out and whiffing the third.
It prompted several scouts from MLB Scout School in attendance to wonder if he was on a rehab assignment from Double-A. After gladly informing them of the truth, they spent the rest of the time wiping the saliva from the corners of the mouth.
He is the type of pitcher the Padres have placed a priority on when scouting talent in the Dominican – high reward pitchers with electric arms.
At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Castro possesses a lean, wiry frame that is projectible. His arm is loose and he generates terrific arm speed, clocking in at 93-94 during the mid-afternoon sweltering heat. And the Padres have seen him hit 96 MPH on the radar gun while displaying a feel for a changeup and slider.
Castro has a repeatable delivery out of the windup, relatively smooth, generates lots of arm speed, and doesn't appear to take a lot of effort.
"He was usually 92-96, hitting 93 consistently," said Francisco. "He is working on his slider and staying on top of the ball more consistently. He has the rotation to have an average slider at least. His best pitch will always be his fastball. He is a power pitcher and I think he is going to be in the middle of the rotation some time in the future. This guy is the player with the highest ceiling we have in the Dominican right now."
He went 1-3 with a 4.63 ERA over 46.2 innings for the DSL Padres. But the numbers are slightly skewed. He had two bad outings out of his 12 starts that accounted for 11 of his 24 earned runs.
From late June to early August, Castro allowed five earned runs over a span of 27 innings, a 1.67 ERA. In eight of his 14 outings he surrendered two earned runs or less, giving up five earned or more in two outings.
"Castro threw the ball very well while we were down there," Padres' director of international scouting Randy Smith said.
His biggest problem has been avoiding the big inning. Word is his mechanics out of the stretch aren't nearly as flawless. He opens up his front side, which in turn creates an erratic release point and a situation where he does not get full extension. Given his age, these are all things that can and will be ironed out.
The evidence is in his work with the bases empty where he held the opposition to a .191 average against. With men on base, however, that number jumped significantly to .281 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and .455 with RISP and two outs.
He is working on consistency with his slider and changeup, along with his mechanics. It will be a long road ahead for Castro but he represents the future and is a tick above many of the players the Padres have brought to Arizona over the last three years. Given time and nurturing, Castro could be a star that pays big dividends.
"He is working on the changeup and has a pretty good one," said Francisco. "But, the thing is when he is pitching in the Dominican he doesn't really need a changeup to get people out since most of them cannot catch up to his fastball. So he works mostly with his fastball and slider and when they go to the states they realize that they need to throw the changeup more."
While he has a long way to go, Castro has been rated as the best prospect to come over from the Dominican Republic this year. It is a long road between the DSL and the majors but the Padres are happy they have him and eager to see what he can do in the states next season.
"I am working on certain points of my mechanics like my arm circle and falling off," Castro said through a translator. "I am trying to better myself and throw strikes."
He also worked from behind in the count a little too much for anyone's tastes but worked hard this off-season to reverse getting into a hole. He has two plus pitches – when controlled – and his changeup is progressing but remains in its infancy stages.
"You see these kids like a (Simon) Castro and you see them throw lights out and when they come over to the states you don't see the same thing for a year," Padres minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk cautioned. "They come over here they struggle, not only on the field but off the field, a different lifestyle, different food, they don't understand English. It takes us a year to see what we saw in the Dominican. We have to be patient."
In extended, Castro has been one of the better pitchers. His confidence has increased since those first few innings and he bounces back from a mistake better than he did last year.
ETA: It will be an interesting season for the young Dominican. He will debut in the Arizona Rookie League and his progression will be predicated on how he performs in the desert heat. With frontline starter stuff and already showing an advanced learning curve, he is one to watch. It will take some time for everything to come together but he has the highest upside of virtually any pitcher in the system.
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