Back in 2014, Castellani was a solid high school pitching prospect in the Phoenix area, committed to Arizona State. The Rockies took him in the second round that June and it’s been a long and somewhat winding road since. Despite a rough 2018 in Double-A and in the Arizona Fall League, Castellani was added to the 40-man roster that offseason, but ended up making just 10 starts in Triple-A in 2019 before needing surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. He did return to pitch very well back in the AFL.
That Fall League performance has the Rockies feeling Castellani might finally be ready to break out. He’d been working to correct his delivery over the last year and was making progress before he was shut down, and that progress showed up in the AFL. He’s back to the three-quarters delivery he employed with better success earlier in his career and he’s looked more athletic and fluid on the mound, throwing strikes more consistently as a result.
He’s always had the stuff, with a fastball that touches 97 mph with good life to it. In the past, he’d relied on a good, but inconsistent slider as his breaking ball, but he broke out a 1-to-7 curveball last year that has good late spin to it. Both breaking balls have the chance to be at least above-average in time to go along with an average changeup, giving him the chance to start if he can keep repeating his delivery.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
On the one hand, Castellani had proven to be a durable starting pitcher, competing while being much younger than his competition at each level. On the other, the 2014 second-round pick out of the Phoenix area high school ranks has seen his ERA climb over the last two years, including a rough return to the Double-A Eastern League in 2018. Then the injury bug hit in 2019, as surgery to remove particulates around his right elbow shut him down in June.
When healthy,Castellani still has the kind of stuff to fit well in a big league rotation. He'll throw his fastball up to 97 mph with good life to it and backs it up with an above-average low-80s slider. His changeup is behind the other two, but he has more than enough feel for it to be a third Major League average offering. He's proven to be an innings-eater, with his 134 1/3 IP in 2018 by far his low-water mark the last three seasons. Last year, he saw his walk rate spike and his strike out rate plummet and it's mostly because he got out of whack with his delivery. Castellani got out of his natural, three-quarters slot and climbed higher and higher, sapping the right-hander of velocity and control.
Castellani had started to re-find that arm slot in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw well down the stretch, especially in three of his final four outings. He was added to the 40-man roster following that performance, but he'll have to wait until 2020 to try and rediscover that momentum.
The Rockies eased Castellani into pro ball after signing him for $1.1 million as a 2014 second-rounder, not allowing him to work more than five innings in a game until August of the following year. The approach paid off, as he led the high Class A California League in innings (167 2/3) and strikeouts (142) in 2016 and topped the Double-A Eastern League in the same categories (157 1/3, 132) last year while ranking as the youngest ERA qualifier (ages 20 and 21) in each circuit. He has gotten hammered in his return to Double-A this year, however.
Castellani's fastball sat around 90 mph in high school but now runs from 92-97 mph with arm-side run and sink that should help him deal with Coors Field. When he doesn't get around his low-80s slider, he shows the ability to throw it for strikes and to back-foot it against left-handers. His fading changeup slipped a little in 2017 but can be a solid pitch when he maintains his arm speed and slot when he throws it.
Colorado officials compare his less-than-smooth mechanics to Max Scherzer's, and like the three-time Cy Young Award winner in his younger days, Castellani's biggest need is consistent command. He had repeated his delivery well and thrown strikes in the past, but inconsistency with his mechanics has led to his struggles in 2018. He's still just 22, so he has plenty of time to turn things around.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Because he needed to add strength to his very projectable frame, the Rockies handled Castellani with care after signing him for $1.1 million as a second-rounder in 2014. He didn't work more than five innings in a game until August of his first full pro season. When they turned him loose last year, he led the Class A Advanced California League in innings (167 2/3) and strikeouts (142).
Castellani's fastball added velocity in 2016 and now sits at 92-95 mph and reaches 97 with armside run and heavy sink that should work well at Coors Field and still has some projection remaining. Both his slider and changeup have the potential to become plus pitches. He can throw his low-80s slider for strikes or back-foot it against left-handers, and he does a nice job of maintaining his arm slot and speed on his fading changeup.
Multiple club officials compare his mechanics to Max Scherzer's -- which isn't the smoothest -- and Castellani makes it work with his fast arm. He repeats his delivery well, fills the strike zone and likes to challenge hitters. He's on course to reach the big leagues at age 22 and eventually become a No. 3 starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
One of the more projectable pitchers in the Rockies system, Castellani signed for $1.1 million as a second-round pick in 2014. Because he's young and needs time to physically develop, Colorado didn't allow him to exceed five innings before the 32nd start of his pro career last August.
Castellani already pitches at 91-93 mph and reaches 96 with hard sink on his fastball, which could sit in the mid-90s once he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. His secondary pitches lack consistency but show flashes of becoming solid offerings. He throws his slider in the low 80s and his changeup has some fade and sink.
Castellani has a quick arm and a clean delivery, so he's able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes with ease. Once he adds strength and refines his secondary pitches and command, he could blossom into a mid-rotation starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
While the Rockies system's arms have been led by pitchers like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and fellow 2014 draftee Kyle Freeland, Castellani, the team's second-round selection, is believed to head up the next wave of pitchers.
The former Arizona high school standout has an excellent combination of size, stuff and feel for pitching. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and there's room for more as he adds strength to his 6-foot-4 frame. His breaking ball gets caught in between, more of a slurve right now, but he's worked at tightening it up. He has a good feel for his changeup as well. He can throw all three for strikes, and there's sink on his fastball, generating groundball outs. He throws a lot of strikes but still needs to refine his overall command, something there is confidence he'll develop over time.
As Castellani builds innings, he should be able to fine-tune his stuff and his command. If that happens, he should be able to reach his ceiling of a solid middle-of-the-rotation big league starter.