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Meet The New Guy: Max Castillo

No offense to Max, who might someday be productive and a valuable asset to the pitching staff, but this is a gripe session wrapped inside a Meet The New Guy article.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he and where did he come from?

He’s Max Castillo. Transaction watchers will know him as one of two then-minor league players dealt to Kansas City from Toronto, alongside Samad Taylor, for Whit Merrifield in 2022. Given the rumors a couple months back about Merrifield being pursued by the Boston brass, which feels like ages ago now, this offseason has truly come full circle. Anyhow, Craig Breslow claimed him off of waivers on January 2, which is three days after Chris Sale was shipped to the Braves and about a week after the Dodgers spent their billionth dollar in free agency this offseason to land another early-twenties pitcher named Yoshinobu Yamamato. If this is a joke by the front office, they should try stand-up.

Is he any good?

I’m a vegan by choice, so oftentimes I have to check ingredients to make sure that what I’m putting into my body doesn’t have animal products in it. I say this for three reasons: one, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet in my almost eighteen months of writing here, and I wanted to hit anyone who says vegans tell people about their diet right away with a “gotcha!” Two, because, in case you didn’t read the subhead, the main ingredient of this Meet The New Guy is, through no fault of Max Castillo’s, a gripe session about the lack of front office spending this offseason wrapped in an informational about the new pickup. And, lastly, to state that Max Castillo has fewer than 60 innings of Major League experience to his name, and he’s not yet 25 years old yet. The 6’2”, 280 pound reliever has a lot left to develop, and I’m sure Craig Breslow sees something he likes in the numbers and mechanics but also: the numbers to the layperson just aren’t there yet, at least not at the Major League level, despite some good signs in the minors.

Too long, didn’t read: Not yet, but I can live with him being on the 40-man roster for now.

Okay, some good signs in the minors... got it. Is he good or not?

Like I said, some things look very promising, and should they be displayed in a way that has any effectivenes on the Major League roster, he might stick around. Should other tendencies or numbers rear their ugly head, I don’t know how he can be in the organization a year from now.

I’m going to address the elephant in the room (and I pinky promise that, me being a guy who is not skinny in the slightest, that wasn’t a pun): yeah, Castillo is on the heavier side, as he’s listed as merely five pounds lighter than Bartolo Colon. And it would be one thing if that translated to throwing a powerful fastball, but his heater tops out at about 95, and stays in the low 90’s most of the time. Not ideal velocity, but here’s an interesting nugget for you, if you trust five-year-old Blue Jays blogs with sources as good as “trust me bro”: he was actually originally to be a third baseman when the Yankees were scouting him as an international free agent, which means he must adjust well. At least, I can tell myself that. Right?

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals Photo Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

More adjustments: despite being listed as a reliever, he actually started his entire way through the minor leagues, including all but one appearance for Triple-A Omaha after being used as a multi-inning reliever/spot starter hybrid in 2022, the year he debuted. If there’s one thing the past two front offices have loved, it’s the ability to go multiple innings and the flexibility to do as much as possible in the case that, due to injury or other circumstances, whatever depth the team thinks it has on Opening Day collapses to reveal a skeleton crew. Not that that would happen, of course, right? Wait, random blog from 2017, you say Max played third at some point? Even better! Let’s trot him out there.

Castillo, who is also developing a slider and changeup, which, according to Baseball Savant, he distributed evenly across his seven appearances for the Royals in 2023, also doesn’t walk guys a whole lot. Including his 2023 stats, which were pretty not great, he’s tallied 716 strikeouts to 243 walks. He’s noticeably giving up more home runs, though: 10 homers in 59.2 innings is too much, full stop. Even giving up 31 home runs in Omaha in 2023 is concerning, but it’s comforting to know that he had the stamina and durability to go over 100 innings (116) in his 22 appearances. That’s about 5.1 per, which, given how dreadful this rotation has been at getting through five frames, I’d take! But it’s also sad that that’s the bar.

So, where’s the gripe?

Besides grabbing someone who was waived by the Royals while Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Marcus Stroman, James Paxton, Mike Clevinger, and even guys like Rich Hill sit on the free agent market, with the Sox telling players that they have to shed more payroll to remain under the first luxury tax threshold before they pursue them? Oh, nothing. And I get that not every transaction needs to be a superstar signing and that organizations need depth. But, the Sox don’t have a rotation to speak of yet and were “aggressive” in talks with productive, proven players, only for actual big market teams to invest actual money to land talent. All we have to show for an offseason of “full throttle” is Vaughn Grissom, who may be a lottery ticket (though I’m confident he’ll be quite good) and Lucas Gioloto, who himself is a reclamation project at this point. So, forgive me if I’m not thrilled by this signing.

Show me a cool highlight.

Here he is striking out five in relief for the Blue Jays. That movement looks awesome, and the command is sound in this video. That he made noted Red Sox killer Cal Raleigh of the Mariners do a complete 360 in bewilderment like he was in a cartoon character is pretty cool, too.

What’s he doing in his picture up there?

Grimacing as he realizes that he’ll now need to face the same fearsome Blue Jays lineup that he came up in the minors.

What’s his role on the 2024 Red Sox?

You mean Worcester, right? In Worcester, he’ll be a multi-inning reliever/spot starter for the AAA squad for when a guy inevitably gets called up to fill a hole. Maybe he’ll be in the majors filling a hole himself, or, detrimentally, in a mop-up role. With any luck, he won’t be, because the best thing for Castillo at his age and experience level is to continue to improve whatever it is that Craig Breslow sees in a low-risk capacity. If he has significant playing time in Boston, whether he plays well or not, it will signal a deep neglect for the needs of the organization this offseason.