Cantillo debuts for Tin Caps as playoffs near

Photo credit: Lance Brozdowski

Photo credit: Lance Brozdowski

This story can be found on SB Nation’s San Diego Padres site, Gaslamp Ball.

Thursday was a day of firsts for Padres 2017 16th-rounder Joey Cantillo. The 6-foot-4 lefty made his first start for a full-season affiliate of the Padres organization and tied up the Lake County Captains’ (CLE affiliate) Will Benson for his first Midwest League strikeout.

It was also the first time the high schooler from Kailua, Hawaii, was in the state of Indiana. Cantillo was signed out of Kailua High School after winning Gatorade’s state player of the year award and passing on an opportunity to pitch for the University of Kentucky.

“I felt like playing pro ball and signing at 17 [years old] was a good thing to do and I’m happy I did from a development standpoint,” Cantillo said. “The Padres are a great organization and I never looked back.”

Cantillo logged 45 strikeout-heavy innings with the Padres Arizona League rookie ball affiliate before his Fort Wayne debut. The results deviated from his track record, but he remains another high-upside arm in a farm system overflowing with talent.

“I thought I started off pretty good with fastball command and everything, just pounding fastballs and then, I’m not going to say I lost my focus, but I lost the command on my fastball,” Cantillo said. “I got deep into counts, a lot of first-pitch balls.”

Cantillo was cruising through two innings, allowing only two baserunners, one earned run and striking out three batters on 34 pitches. He started to waver in the 3rd inning allowing two more baserunners. By the 4th inning the fastball command Cantillo admitted he lost became apparent. After relinquishing two hits and walking a batter, even with two outs, Manager Anthony Contreras pulled Cantillo from the game sitting at 74 pitches.

Tin Caps reliever Fred Schlichtholz surrendered both of Cantillo’s runs and two of his own on a home run from the Captains’ premiere talent, Will Benson.

Cantillo’s final line: 3 2⁄3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Cantillo’s fastball sat between 86-89 mph with arm-side life. His prominent offspeed pitch was a changeup that sat 76-78 mph and generated multiple off-balance swinging strikes. The pitch appeared to have multiples shapes throughout the game, with substantial depth and fade in some instances and hard, lateral run on rarer occasions. “Funk” can easily be associated with Cantillo’s offerings.

“That’s what it’s been all year, fastball-changeup, I didn’t throw as many changeups as I usually do just because I was behind in the count,” Cantillo said. “But when I’m throwing that [well] it’s a good pitch with good depth and fade... Sometimes when I’m ahead in the count I’ll try to spike my changeup too much instead of just throwing it hard over the plate”

Speaking after the game, Cantillo mentioned he threw only one curveball, a pitch he mixes in to left-handed hitters on occasion to presumably veer away from high levels of lefty-lefty changeup usage. Cantillo’s pregame bullpen offered better looks at his curveball than the game. The pitch had a natural 12-6, overhand feel from his high release point.

Cantillo’s mechanics possess some funk as well. His arm slot is over-the-top compared to a natural three-quarters delivery. In the video within the tweet above, you can see an aggressive head knock that pulls his eyes off the catcher’s target after releasing a pitch. The athleticism and fluidity in his mechanics given how large Cantillo’s frame is make for promising future projection.

The Captains weren’t afraid to run their way towards a 12-4 victory either. Three bases were stolen on Cantillo as he works on the efficiency of his delivery from the stretch.

“I think he was a little bit slow to the plate and we talked about it,” Manager Anthony Contreras said about Cantillo’s start. “But the thing is when you’re so young like that, you’re working of specific areas of your game, and he’ll learn after he gets guys stealing off him like that more and more.

“[You] gotta change something up, either a slide step or just be quicker to the plate, create some kind of movement that runners can’t tell if [the pitcher] is going to the plate or not.”

Despite the critique, Contreras was pleased with Cantillo’s debut, admiring his “poise” and ability to quickly settle in to a game with playoff implications for Fort Wayne.

“Hopefully I get another start,” Cantillo said. “[Parkview Field] is amazing--the fans and the stadium--so I’m going to enjoy [Friday].”

Friday marks the last guaranteed home game at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Tin Caps travel to face the West Michigan White Caps (DET affiliate) Saturday in a three-game series that will decide the opponent of the Great Lakes Loons (LAD affiliate). If the Tin Caps win two of three, they’ll host the Loons Wednesday in Fort Wayne to start the eastern division quarterfinal.

At only 18 years old, Cantillo represents another high-upside arm in the Padres organization. His changeup will create a substantial swing-and-miss floor against Midwest League hitters. Fluid mechanics and a large frame provide hope for future command projection with adjustment.

Keep Cantillo on your radar.

Lance BrozdowskiComment