Listen to my interview with Miguel Castro while he was in Lansing.
Miguel Castro began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, and then returned to the DSL to start 2013. He finished that 2013 season at age 18 in Advanced-Rookie Bluefield, a long ways away from the Majors.
Or was he?
In 2014, Miguel opened with an impressive stint in Short-A Vancouver, knocked socks off in Single-A Lansing (including back-to-back dominant showings against Eastern Division leaders South Bend and West Michigan), and finished with a pair of outings in A-Advanced Dunedin. His name was becoming known.
Yesterday: talking with Vince Horsman about such talented arms as Aaron Sanchez, Kendall Graveman and Miguel Castro: https://t.co/G3E99GIX6E
— Jesse G-S (@jgoldstrass) August 8, 2014
To this extent, only a few sorts of folks knew about Miguel Castro: Blue Jays staff members, instructors and players; opposing batters; and us broadcasters in Vancouver, Lansing and Dunedin. After watching Miguel twirl seven three-hit shutout innings, West Michigan broadcaster Ben Chiswick asked me rhetorically, "He's got to be a Top-20 prospect in the Minor Leagues next year, doesn't he?"
We also all knew his nickname/comparison to Kevin Durant, as this Vancouver Canadians graphic explains:
Beyond us, though, I dare say that Miguel Castro was an unknown commodity.
That brings us to this spring training, where Miguel -- with only six appearances above the short-season level and zero experience above A-Advanced -- was invited to Blue Jays Major League camp.
February 25th: A Neil Davidson article for the Globe and Mail on February 25th introduces Blue Jays' fans to the slender phenom:
The first time Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos saw him pitch, for Class-A Vancouver, he thought the speed gun was broken because it kept showing 98 miles per hour.“I literally said ‘Hey, is something wrong with the gun? Is it frozen?“’ Anthopoulos said.
That same day, SportsNet's Shi Davidi brings out the Kevin Durant comparison, given to him by a Blue Jays' official:
Looking at Castro’s six-foot-five, 190-pound frame, I asked a Blue Jays official for a physical comparison and he threw out NBA star Kevin Durant. Asked how it looks from behind the plate, Thole said: “It’s an effortless mid-90’s for sure. The ball is on you because he’s got the long arms, so essentially, he’s handing the ball to the catcher and it explodes, aside from it being 100 or whatever it is.”
Both Davidi and Davidson quote Alex Anthopoulos as saying, “if we were to start the season today, he’d be down here in the Florida State League, but that’s not to say he can’t come quick."
March 3rd: Miguel Castro makes his spring debut in Blue Jays' first Grapefruit League game, working a scoreless eighth against the Pirates.
March 7th: In his second outing of spring, he delivers a six-pitch perfect fifth inning against the Phillies in the Jays' fifth game.
Tweets SportsNet's Jamie Campbell:
Asked AA who might rise fast and be in MLB this season. Two names: Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. Castro possibly by "opening day".
— Jamie Campbell (@SNETCampbell) March 7, 2015
SportsNet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes:
The 20-year-old Castro entered camp as a longshot to make the club given that he has yet to pitch in the upper minors. But his lanky frame and big velocity are hard to miss. By retiring big league hitters, he earned more looks from the Blue Jays decision makers who have already been impressed by his fastball-change-up combination.
March 8th: TSN's Scott MacArthur builds off of Kennedy's suggestion:
As of this moment, March 8, both [Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro] have a chance to break camp with the big league team....Castro, a 20-year-old Dominican, is a beanpole who hurls peas. Listed at 6’5”, 190 pounds, he’s likely taller and lighter than his billing. But the radar gun tells no lies - he can throw a fastball 100 miles per hour. More importantly, he throws the pitch for strikes and complements it with a changeup nicely developed for a kid his age. Castro also features a slider.
March 9th: Tweets Campbell:
On Saturday, Miguel Castro had easy 1-2-3 inning vs PHI. Castro was first signed by PHI, but they voided contract. @BlueJays are grateful.
— Jamie Campbell (@SNETCampbell) March 9, 2015
March 10th: The Blue Jays lose Marcus Stroman for the season due to a torn ACL. Everyone starts looking around for possible replacements; the loss of Stroman would likely move Aaron Sanchez from the bullpen to the rotation, which meant a new opening in the bullpen.
Suddenly, Sanchez in the rotation seems likely. And so does Miguel Castro in the bullpen.
— Jamie Campbell (@SNETCampbell) March 10, 2015
March 11th: Miguel makes his third appearance of the spring, dazzling the Baltimore Orioles with two shutout innings. Mike Wilner is on the scene:
Castro looks terrific again, blowing away #Orioles in a perfect bot5 - struck out Wieters and Machado, both on sliders. #Bluejays up 3-0 t6.
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) March 11, 2015
#Bluejays had different readings on their radar guns for Castro. #Jays say #Orioles stadium gun is slow - Castro hit 99, sat 96-97. #Wowz
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) March 11, 2015
Miguel Castro was in the Dominican Summer League two years ago. He is currently 20 years old.
You couldn't blame the Blue Jays' brain trust if they sat back, took off their caps, wiped their foreheads, and said to each other, "Hey, let's slow down. Send the kid to Dunedin in April. No rush." But -- aside from his inexperience -- he hasn't given them any reason not to sit back, wipe their foreheads, and say instead, "Hey, he's special. Let's stick with the kid."
Either way, Miguel Castro will be well worth watching.