“We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill. Over the castle on the hill. Over the castle on the hill.” — Ed Sheeran
Adrian Del Castillo, famously “of the castle”, has a chance to be the most polished college hitter in the 2021 draft. A catcher by trade, it’s unlikely he stays behind the plate at the next level, but the bat is special enough to warrant a top pick next July.
The 12th ranked catcher in the country in 2018, Del Castillo was a 36th round pick by the Chicago White Sox out of high school but ultimately elected to go to the University of Miami to improve his stock. It didn’t take long.
Del Castillo has been an absolute masher since arriving to Miami. As a true freshmen in 2019, the left-handed slugger slashed .331/.418/.576 with 12 home runs in 61 games. He started all 61 games that season, 31 of which in right field, 16 at designated hitter, 12 at catcher and two at third base. The bat was so special, head coach Gino DiMare simply had to find a spot for him night in and night out.
His sophomore year, albeit an abbreviated campaign, was no different. Del Castillo started all 16 games this season, including 13 behind the plate. He’d slash .358/.478./.547 with two doubles, a triple and two dingers.
Maybe more impressive, Del Castillo ran an 8.5 percent K-rate in 2019 and an 11.9 percent K-rate in 2020. He drew more walks (32) than punch outs (24) in his freshman year and did it again this season. Del Castillo is, by just about any measure, the most complete hitter in the 2021 class. Indeed, all he’s done is hit in South Beach.
Listen, I get it. “Polished college bat” is a bit of a trigger in the Pacific Northwest. Jeff Clement, Dustin Ackley, DJ Peterson, Mike Zunino... I hear you. But college hitters are statistically the least volatile demographic in any draft class. There’s generally peace of mind in selecting a college bat. Does it always pan out? No, but more times than not they’ll end up contributing to your ball club within three years of being selected.
Over the past several years, I’ve developed connections with a number of industry professionals in scouting departments across the league. I ran a poll about a month ago, asking these guys their thoughts on the ten best college hitters over the past decade according to their confidence in future big league success. 19 guys got top ten votes. Del Castillo ranked 15th by aggregate points. The 14 names above him are pretty big deals. The guys he beat out were Alex Bregman, JJ Bleday, Colin Moran and Austin Martin.
'13 Kris Bryant— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) August 11, 2020
'20 Spencer Torkelson
'11 Anthony Rendon
'14 Kyle Schwarber
'15 Dansby Swanson
'16 Nick Senzel
'19 Andrew Vaughn
'18 Alec Bohm
'12 Mike Zunino
'19 Adley Rutschman
'20 Nick Gonzales
'14 Michael Conforto
'15 Andrew Benintendi
'18 Joey Bart
'21 Adrian Del Castillo
Del Castillo has a ton of similarities to fourth overall pick from 2014, Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber. A product of the University of Indiana, Schwarber wasn’t even considered a Top 10 prospect in that draft by most publications. The Cubs deemed the bat too special to pass up. He was a high-average, big-power, high-OBP guy that would move quick. Schwarber was a catcher-primary, but eventually had to move to the outfield after proving he couldn’t handle being a backstop at the highest level.
A similar trajectory could be on the horizon for Del Castillo.
TOOLS (Future Value)
Del Castillo’s bat will be his carrying tool. Because of this, we’ll spend the most time dissecting what makes it work. It’s the vast majority of his value and comfortably projects a middle-of-the-order type stick. He already gets a bump for being a lefty, but he uses his hands very, very well. The bat speed is impressive as you’d expect. The bat path is short to the ball with some barrel whip. He’s got a modern vertical bat angle that allows the bat to intersect most pitches on an aggressive plane, creating natural lift and drive.
In 2019, Del Castillo employed a leg kick in his loading mechanism, a common move for younger players. 2020 saw the leg kick flip to more of a mild stride. The result is more balance and consistent weight transfer, ideally allowing him to cover more of the plate and use more of the field.
Del Castillo gets most of his torque and power through simple fundamentals. He’s almost always in an athletic position to hit, keeping both feet down as he separates his hips. The hands stay back deep into his load as his hips begin to fire. The knob of the bat stays down facing home plate. The swing is nice and short and the result is a highly efficient bat path without much, if any, lost energy.
Fundamentals are one thing, but you need to be a special type of hitter to really capitalize on them. The kinetic sequencing of his swing should be in the Louvre. The rotational force of the swing works its way from his feet, into his lower half, through his hips and into his core without any loss of momentum. It’s only at this point does he engage his hands. The barrel of the bat stays tight to his back shoulder, the back elbow stays tucked and the result is an optimized use of force at contact. Del Castillo is only 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. He doesn’t look like a revered power guy. But he could end up being one if he stays within this operation throughout his career.
The first point of true extension for Del Castillo is just about when his barrel meets the ball. It’s another example of total efficiency. The swing getting long and overextension is one of the reasons J.P. Crawford struggles to hit for power. The ability to keep your hands inside the baseball as long as possible is extremely important in creating bat-head speed. Dylan Moore does a fantastic job of keeping his hands through the ball long into the zone. It’s what allows the opposite field power. Del Castillo has this ability as well.
All this, and we didn’t even talk about how well he works counts and lays off fringy-pitches. As mentioned before, the kid just knows how to get on-base.
In total, we’re talking about an advanced hitter who can beat a shift or lift the ball out of the ballpark. He projects a high-average, high-OBP hitter with plenty of slug...
Boy, it feels a little redundant to cover the power tool at this point, doesn’t it? Everything listed above does a pretty good job of explaining why the power tool works. Del Castillo is a highly optimized hitter who gets into his raw power in-game right now.
The swing gets a ton of organic loft. It’s far from forced and it doesn’t lead to much swing-and-miss, which frankly, is rare for a guy that puts the ball in the air so much.
At the next level, you’re probably looking at a guy who has a chance to peak at 26-30 home runs in a season. It’s a swing that should take much time to catch up to whichever level he’s hitting at. Del Castillo is the type of guy who lets his bat eat and carry his way through a farm system. Schwarber’s rookie campaign saw him slash .246/.355/.487 with 16 home runs in less than 70 games. A similar debut isn’t farfetched here.
Del Castillo’s biggest detractors will point right to the defense as his biggest wart, and they have a point — it’s the reason he most likely won’t be able to stick behind the plate. He’s made strides, no doubt, in his ability to block the ball, but it’s still one of his biggest liabilities behind the plate. Del Castillo doesn’t have the most flexible hips, so transitioning from a squat to his knees is often sluggish. His lateral mobility has improved, though blocking breaking balls low and away has given him trouble in the past.
In right field, Del Castillo fringe average speed and average arm play a bit better. He’s likely destined for left field at the next level, akin to Schwarber’s career trajectory. He’ll likely never be an asset on defense no matter the position, though his bat figures to carry most of his big league value anyways. With a universal DH right around the corner, his entire profile should see an uptick league-wide.
As mentioned above, Del Castillo has an average arm. Most of his throws are clocked in the 82-84 mph range which squarely falls in the 50 category. The arm action itself is fine. It can get a little long creating unfavorable pop times, but all-in-all the arm itself isn’t a liability by any means.
In right field, Del Castillo has recorded a couple assists in his career, so he’s not unfamiliar to the outfield. Again, it’s not going to be an arm that runners are afraid of running on, but it likely won’t be one that teams try to exploit on a nightly basis either. Long-term, I still think the profile fits better at first base or left field a few nights per week, but he has the athleticism and versatility to add value to a roster.
Del Castillo is currently a below average runner, maybe a tick below. As a catcher, it was never going to fit his archetype in the first place, so you should expect a plus runner here anyways.
Most of his 60-times were pumped in the 7.1 to 7.25 range, the former being the breakpoint for a 40-runner. It’s a lumbering stride and Del Castillo can be a little slow out of the box, so there’s an argument to be made here he’s a 30 runner in the not-so-distant future. In the outfield, he’s shown the ability to cover more ground once his body gets underway, but again, that’s a slow build and now something you probably want chasing down balls in the gap.
Speed was never going to be a tool to write home about here.
Any time you come across a hitter with a plus hit tool and a plus power tool, you take notice. Those types of bats don’t grow on trees, and there’s often just a couple in every draft class. Del Castillo has the chance to be the best hitter from the 2021 class and whoever selects him may hear his named called in a big league stadium in 2023. Del Castillo has a reasonably good chance to be the very first hitter called up from this draft class and should represent a middle-of-the-lineup stick very soon.