Phillies 2024 Season Preview: RHP Max Castillo

The recently acquired Castillo might get a chance to pitch in the majors this season but isn't projected to make much of an impact for the Phillies out of the bullpen.
New Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Max Castillo might get a chance to pitch in the big leagues this season out of the bullpen
New Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Max Castillo might get a chance to pitch in the big leagues this season out of the bullpen / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

The next player in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview Series is right-handed pitcher Max Castillo.

Previous season previews: José AlvaradoAndrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake CaveDylan CoveySeranthony Domínguez, Darick Hall, Kolby Allard, Bryce Harper, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering, Rafael Marchán, Brandon Marsh, Yunior Marté, Diego Castillo, Michael Mercado, McKinley Moore

We'll start with a look back at Castillo's 2023 performance and then examine where he might end up this season using the popular Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Max Castillo 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 7 G, 20.1 IP, 0-1 record, 4.43 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 10 SO, 9 BB, -0.1 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 19 G, 19 IP, 1-1 record, 4.54 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 15 SO, 5 BB, 0.1 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 19 G, 19 IP, 1-1 record, 4.98 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 14 SO, 6 BB, 0.0 fWAR

Max Castillo 2024 season preview

Recent acquisition Max Castillo, who came to the Phillies off waivers from the Kansas City Royals, looks to be another piece of the team's added pitching depth heading into the 2024 season. The 24-year-old righty spent 2023 bouncing up and down between the Royals and their Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers.

His role with the Phillies this season will likely resemble his time in Kansas City. Castillo has predominantly been a starter in the minors since signing with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. Even last season in Omaha he started in 21 of his 22 games. But in the majors, he came out of the bullpen as long relief in all seven appearances, pitching to a 4.43 ERA and an unsightly 5.32 FIP over his 20 1/3 innings.

Castillo projects for more bullpen appearances in 2024

Both projection systems think the Venezuelan will appear in 19 games and throw 19 innings for the Phillies this year. Steamer and ZiPS DC are giving Castillo the benefit of the doubt with improved strikeout and walk rates after posting an 11.2 percent strikeout rate and 10.1 percent walk rate last season.

Steamer projects an 18.5 percent strikeout rate and a 6.7 percent walk rate but still predicts a higher ERA at 4.54. ZiPS projects a 16.8 percent strikeout rate, a 7.5 percent walk rate, and an even higher 4.98 ERA. None of those numbers look particularly good.

It would seem that the Phillies might want to keep Castillo for emergencies and mop-up duties if they need to shuffle arms to give other relievers rest when the bullpen workload gets too heavy.

Castillo's changeup might be his secret weapon

Castillo throws three pitches: a four-seamer that averaged 93.4 mph last year, an 87 mph changeup, and an 83.6 mph slider. His fastball got clobbered by MLB hitters in 2023 to the tune of a .320 batting average and a .520 slugging percentage, resulting from a 65 percent hard-hit rate.

His slider fared even worse, with opponents running a .346 average and a .577 slugging percentage against the offering.

It's his offspeed pitch that's intriguing. It's some kind of anomaly for Castillo, completely outperforming the underlying metrics in both of his seasons in the majors, according to Baseball Savant. You can see the results of his changeup below.






















The gaps between the actual results and the expected stats against the changeup were decent in 2022 but got even more significant in 2023. The Phillies could have seen this and decided they could work with this pitch and get something out of Castillo in limited exposure in the big leagues.

With one option remaining, if Castillo performs well enough in spring and during his time in Triple-A, we may see his changeup in the majors a few times this season.