Just before the trade deadline, the Marlins went all in on their wild card hopes by making a trade which mortgaged two big pieces of their distant future and one piece of their present in an attempt to sure up their rotation as they look toward October.
Their trade partner was down-and-out San Diego who received former Marlins first round draft pick Josh Naylor and arguably the best arm in Miami’s minor league system, Luis Castillo, making an already thin organization very much thinner. In addition to giving up two of their best young commodities, Miami also parted with their best reliever at the MLB level from last year, Carter Capps who underwent Tommy John before the season began. Jarred Cosart, whom the Marlins previously traded another of their top prospects for in Colin Moran, also goes back to San Diego.
The return? Two starting pitchers who, combined, contributed dismal numbers this year as members of the Padres’ rotation, including a 4.89 ERA and a 2.31 WHIP. Those hurlers are 26-year-old Colin Rea who hasn’t been effective at any point in his career above AA (4.88 ERA over 27.2 AAA IP, 4.69 ERA over 134.1 MLB IP) and 29-year-old Andrew Cashner who was last effective as starter in 2014 and who has already been to the DL twice this season. A C-type prospect at best in Tayron Guerrero, a 25-year-old reliever who has a 5.30 ERA between AA and AAA this year comes back as a throw in. In other words, the Marlins picked from the bottom of the barrel while giving up the some of the best of their future talent. In even more words, they got fleeced by the Padres.
Josh Naylor came to the Marlins system in 2015 as their first round draft pick. Upon being selected and signing out of his Southern California high school, he was invited to take batting practice at Marlins Park (the version that still hadn’t brought the walls in to where they are currently). He accepted the invitation and responded to it by hitting baseballs nearly out of the stadium.
After that, Naylor took his talents to the Gulf Coast league where he spent the rest of 2015 racking up the third most RBIs and fifth most total bases on his team despite only appearing in 25 games. He placed second on the team (amongst those with at least 20 games played) with a .418 slugging percentage and second on the team in batting average at .327. This year, in his first year of full season ball, including a .326/.348/.442 July, Naylor has kept himself busy by punishing Sally League pitching to the tune of a .269/.317/.430 line and leading the team in homers (9), RBI (54) and doubles (24), totals which also rank ninth, tenth and and sixth in the league. His .430 SLG also leads all Grasshoppers players with over 40 games played. To this point in his career, he has been more of a doubles threat than a home run threat but at just 19, there is plenty of room for Naylor to grow physically into his frame. Strength and conditioning will be key for Naylor on his way up through the minors. If he can succeed in that area, there should be no reason why Naylor can’t turn in to a more fit and offensively affective Prince Fielder. Technically, Naylor is pretty sound with just a few hitches in his swing. He adjusts to pitch speed well and has the ability to attack pitches on both sides of the palte, though he favors the pull variety of hitting. He maintains looseness in his hands very well until he commits to a swing which he times with a small front foot trigger. He steps into the ball advantageously. His swing has been described as a thing of violent beauty. I am of the opinion that the swing is a bit too aggressive as he tends to fly open a bit on it and at times lose his balance. He also frequently releases the bat before his swing is through, often leading to weaker contact. However, all of those small hitches are things that should work themselves out with age and experience. When it comes to speed, there isnt much to speak of but he sure can jog the bases beautifully and, should his power potential play out, that’s all he will need to do. Defensively, Naylor leaves a bit to be desired at first base, having committed 11 errors this season and only holding a 9.37 range factor. But, after spending a lot of his high school career DHing, that is to be expected. Again, as is the case with his plate approach, with more experience and innings at the corner infield spot, Naylor, forever the athletic athlete, should improve. Should he age successfully before reaching the majors in what most forsee to be 2019, Naylor could wind up being a more athletic and possibly more powerful version of Price Fielder.
In addition to his strong on-field product, Naylor, still just 19, is already bringing an always positive vibe to the clubhouse, which is making his team rally around him, something that will be missed in the Grasshoppers’ clubhouse for the rest of this year and another aspect of Naylor’s game that the Marlins won’t be reaping the benefits of.
“He’s usually one that likes to have fun in the clubhouse especially with (Anfernee) Seymour and myself so it was a little more quiet today,” Grasshoppers’ infielder Giovanny Alfonzo said the day after the trade. “It’s a little weird not having him around.”
If you frequent this blog and my Twitter, you know how high I have been on Hammerheads’ starter Luis Castillo. And if you have had the pleasure of watching him pitch, you know why. Luis Miguel Castillo, a native of Bani, Dominican Republic, came to American pro ball in 2012 as an international signee by the Giants. Following two seasons in the Domincan summer league, including a spectacular 2013 campaign in which he held down a 0.64 ERA in 28 IP, converted 20/22 save ops which lead the league, and struck out 34 while walking just three as the DSL Giants’ closer, Castillo joined full season ball in 2014 for the Augusta Greenjackets. Out of their pen, he managed a 3.07 ERA in 52 IP. Again, the K/BB was fantastic as he K’d 66 to just 25 walks. His six holds tied him for his team’s lead and his 10 saves in 12 chances ranked second. Castillo came to the Marlins following that season as the lesser-known prospect in the trade that sent Casey McGehee to San Francisco for himself and center piece Kendry Flores. As things are turning out, Castillo looks to be the more valuable long-term piece. In addition to Flores who has already spent time in the majors, it is safe to say the Marlins absolutely fleeced the Giants in that trade only to get fleeced themselves in this one.
Following a disappointing initial start to his Marlins career which saw him clinging to a 4.40 ERA in his first 30.2 IP, the Marlins took Castillo out of the pen and made him a starter even though he had only tossed four complete innings once in his career and that being back in his first season in the DSL. He responded by going 4 innings in back to back starts allowing one total ER before going at least 5 in his next five starts in which he held opposing offenses to less than 1.99 runs per game. The Marlins knew then they had something special in Castillo and they rewarded him with a promotion to high A. He finished last year by tossing to the tune of a 3.50 ERA in 43.2 IP and nine starts for the Hammerheads that season. This year, back with the Sharks, all Castillo has managed to do is become quite possibly the best pitcher in the Florida State League, ranking amongst it’s leaders in every major stat category. His 0.97 WHIP ranks second, his 2.23 ERA ranks fourth, his 86 strikeouts rank 10th, and his 16 walks are tied for third least (amongst those with at least 80 IP).
You wouldn;t know it to look at the wiry 6’2″ 170 pounder but Castillo has the ability to reach triple digits with his heat which he has improved from last year to this. The formerly flat offering has shown some added downward plane movement. He also isn’t afraid to throw it to both sides of the black, making it both a great first pitch or piggyback pitch to the change. That offering, which he holds with a splitfinger grip, is Castillo’s best pitch. Sitting around 87-89, the late drop on this pitch is reminiscent of a roller coaster and is absolutely filthy. The pitch flashes fastball for 50 feet then drops off the table within the last ten, leaving hitters dumbfounded. He has great feel for the pitch and can run it both inside and outside with good fade. His third pitch slider is of the slurvy variety and usually hangs around the 82-84 MPH range though he has such control of his arm speed to drop it down even lower than that. The pitch tilts hard and has good late bite. He uses it as a change of pace pitch, sometimes mixing it in in between the fastball/changeup combo but usually uses it ahead in the count. He could use to develop a fourth pitch but with great control of all three of his present pitches, all of which flash plus and a head for when to throw them, he doesn’t really need to in order to succeed. Castillo could and probably should be pitching in AA right now and, if he continues to show what he has this year in the upper levels of the minors, could contribute to a big league club as earlhy as next season as a 3-5 starter with potential to become even more. For a Marlins club that has very few in house pitching options like him in the minors and which has struggled keeping the back end of their rotation from being a revolving door this year, this is a huge loss.
UPDATE: After Colin Rea left his first start with the Marlins after 4 IP with shoulder discomfort and went on the DL the next day, the Padres agreed to send Castillo back to the Marlins in a very rare trade back. Although he passed his physical, one has to question whether the Padres knew of Rea possibly having health issues before the trade and the trade back was simply to save face with the league if they were investigated which very well could happen. In any regard, it’s great to have Castillo back.
Although it is disheartening to me to lose both Naylor and Castillo, quite possibly the most maddening aspect of this trade is the inclusion of Carter Capps for nothing more than a fistful of dollars. Capps, the Marlins’ best reliever from last year, underwent Tommy John in the offseason and is out for the season. Even though that procedure now carries an 80% success rate, the Marlins, who again have struggled mightily in middle and late relief for years, thought parting with Capps, who has one of the most hard to hit deliveries, a back leg foot drag which shortens the distance to the plate by 10 feet, along with high 90s velo, as nothing more than an inclusion to a trade in order to bring some sort of semblence of cash back in order to pay the rest of Cashner’s $7.15 million salary was a good idea. As of right now, instead of setting up with the 26-year-old Capps next year and quite possibly for the long term, that job will fall to a 39-year-old Fernando Rodney, making the Marlins’ pen even more of a revolving door.
In short, with the return being very little of an upgrade over in house options such as Phelps and Urena, this trade screams that the Marlins made it just to make a move. It also came at the price of two pieces that could be mainstays on their roster within the next two years and in return get a near 30-year-old rental starter (he’s a free agent next year) who has been average at best. I disliked when the Marlins traded Moran to the Astros for Cosart; I dislike this move even more.