Scouting Yankees Prospect #49: Noel Castillo

Castillo has a big league arm

The Yankees signed right-handed pitcher Noel Castillo out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005. A low-risk/high-ceiling signing at the time, one who was signed at 21-years old, he has slowly come on to the prospect scene with his big league arm and good command, and he's inching his way closer towards tapping his potential.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Noel Castillo
Position: Pitcher
DOB: October 5, 1983
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He has posted some solid numbers in his short career thus far, thanks in large part to his plus fastball. The 25-year old, however, has made improving his secondary pitches - his breaking pitches in particular - a priority this past season and moving forward.

"I've felt pretty good about it," Castillo said of his 2008 season through the help of a translator. "I've felt on and off this year. I've had some bad outings, but I feel pretty good and I'm happy with how my stuff has been coming along."

Getting by mostly on his arm strength and fastball movement prior to 2008, he made a big step forwards in becoming more of a pitcher rather than a raw thrower and it was because of the rapid development of his changeup.

"Noel's changeup came big-time," Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said. "He has a major league changeup to go along with his big league arm. He has a lot of life in that arm of his."

"We still have to improve his delivery and his mechanics so he will be able to command his pitches. He gets people out because he's got such a great arm and he's developed his changeup that he can throw at any time. He still needs to develop his slider and continue to work on his delivery.

"His last couple of outings in Instructs was the best I've ever seen his slider. It was enlightening that he showed us that he does have it. He now has to believe in the pitch and in himself to throw it."

A fastball-changeup pitcher mostly throughout his career at the lower levels, the Yankees had Castillo focus more on his curveball and slider in Charleston this season and that led to some inconsistent performances.

"My plan for the year and the adjustments I had to make were with my curveball," he admitted. "I want to get more bite to it and then I've been working on a slider, but my focus was on all my offspeed pitches."

He possesses a fastball that not only tops out at 95 MPH but has a lot of late life to it, often times giving opposing batters the appearance it's coming in even quicker.

Comfortable and confident with throwing his heater in any count, the Dominican native says the first step towards improving his breaking pitches this season was tweaking his mechanics.

"Being able to stay straight with my load and throwing across my body has been helping a lot," he revealed, "so I would say it's because my mechanics have improved."

Castillo posted a solid 3.90 ERA and struck out 119 batters in 127 innings for the Riverdogs, and even picked up a win in his lone start for the Tampa Yankees in his final start of the year [striking out seven batters in six innings], but he knows things could have been a lot better had his curveball and slider been there all season.

"Throughout the year it's been working on that curveball," he said of what he would have changed, "and I would have liked to have made some more progress with that."

Pleased with his impressive fastball-changeup combination, he knows that perfecting his breaking pitches would only help accelerate his track through the minor leagues and help make him a more effective pitcher overall.

"I want to work hard in the offseason and try and lose some weight, as well as work on the curveball for next year," he concluded.





























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Repertoire. Fastball, Changeup, Slider, Curveball.

Fastball. Castillo has a plus big league fastball, one that has averaged 91-93 MPH and topped out at 95 MPH as a starting pitcher. He throws only four-seamers right now, but he gets some very good movement and late explosive life on his fastball. So while it has some real good velocity already, it also has the appearance it is bearing down on batters a tick or two quicker.

Other Pitches. He has had a decent changeup over the past couple of seasons, but he developed into a legitimate big league pitch this past season from a command standpoint. He would snap off some real good ones in season's prior, but it only got better once he threw it more and threw it with confidence. He does have both a curveball and a slider in his repertoire - although his power arm makes his slider the better of the two - but they are still in the development phase and he lacks the confidence in throwing them often. He throws his slider in the 84-87 MPH range and the break on it is a bit inconsistent. Like his changeup, however, once he learns to throw his slider with conviction it could become an above average pitch for him.

Pitching. There's no monkeying around with Castillo - he goes right after batters with his power fastball and he doesn't shy away from contact. His now big league changeup, along with his late-life and solid movement with his heater, makes his fastball all that much tougher to square up on. His slender build and loose arm action also helps disguise his raw power as opposing batters don't really believe he can throw that hard. He can command his fastball and changeup very well, and he allows very few walks. Castillo is also very athletic and he fields his position well.

Projection. Castillo continually gets overlooked because he wasn't a premier International signing and because of his older age at the lower levels. While those factors may not ever allow him to be a popular prospect, they have little to do with his potential ability to help the big league club. And with just 252 innings thrown in his baseball life, while he is a bit older, his arm doesn't have the same mileage as other pitchers the same age. He has pitched as a starting pitcher in the minors thus far - mostly to help him work on his mechanics and secondary pitches - but with his good command of a plus big league fastball, he projects best as a big league reliever. With the looseness in his arm action, there is also a good chance he could see a velocity spike once he makes the move to the bullpen. His big league arm is rare enough that he could even become a future setup man at some point, possibly even cut in the mold as a Juan Cruz type, who also signed late [he didn't sign a professional contract until he was 19-years old]. He has that kind of ceiling.

ETA. 2011. Castillo seems destined to open up the 2009 season with the Tampa Yankees, but in which capacity is something that will have to play out. If he is shifted to the bullpen sooner rather than later, he could move pretty quickly.

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