The University of Miami has a long track record of producing major league catchers.
Charles Johnson was elected 28th overall in the 1992 draft and became a four-time gold glove winner, two-time All-Star and World Series champion with the Marlins.
Yasmani Grandal finished 12th overall in 2010 and has formed two National League All-Star teams and played in two World Series.
Zack Collins finished 10th overall in 2016 and is starting his third season in the big leagues with the White Sox.
So what could be in store for Adrian Del Castillo, Miami’s next scheduled first-round catcher?
It all depends on how the 5-foot-11, 210-pound left-handed man swings the club and continues forward behind the plate.
“He’s definitely catching better. The offensive team wasn’t up to date, but it’s early in the season too so he can catch up, ”said a Major League scout of Del Castillo, who scored with three home runs, 21 RBIs and a .323. 910 OPS to 93 bats for Hurricane # 20.
“It’s not something in particular that has seen a huge improvement, but I think it’s a combination of a lot of things that are better,” said the scout. “He understands more what to do and he’s more comfortable.”
On a physical comparison, the scout said Del Castillo reminded him of a left-wing version of Paul Lo Duca, a four-time All-Star, and he saw striking elements resembling brewer catcher Omar Narvaez. He also said he could see Del Castillo make it to the major leagues within two years of being called up.
The scout said Del Castillo’s offensive value stems more from being a die-hard batsman who consistently drives in runs. While not an elite racket, Del Castillo has the potential to hit more than 20 home runs per season.
“There will be more of a movement towards guys who can make constant contact,” said the scout. “Power will still be important. Adrian’s value is thereby increased.
“If you are an organization that is now looking for value more than value, you could do without Adrian. Someone will take him in the first round, but I don’t know if it will be early, medium or late. It does Not.” It doesn’t change the fact that he has improved. There is one value that cannot be overlooked. He doesn’t stand out much. He finds the barrel and he’s a guy who’s hit historically. It’s hard to ignore. “
Del Castillo hasn’t been as productive on his plate as he was in his first two seasons with the Hurricanes.
But Boy Scouts aren’t worried about his bat.
“He presses on the plate because he knows he has to show more,” said one scout. “It’ll drop him a little from where he was expected, unless he takes off now in the second half. They throw themselves around him so he has to look for a specific space to drive. “
Ask his trainers in Miami and Del Castillo has all the ingredients to become outstanding.
“The first time I saw Adrian was in our camp when he was in ninth grade and he already had that momentum,” said Miami head coach Gino DiMare. “He’s a guy who could hit from the day he started playing baseball. His strength is to hit the ball all over the field. It has shown a little more traction this year, but it has gotten stronger and generates more electricity. “
Hitting always seemed to be a given for Del Castillo, which is a bit of an old school style of hitting without gloves and feeling more on the plate in terms of the approach.
“He took that from me,” said Del Castillo’s father Carlos, who played high baseball in Southwest Miami after emigrating from Cuba via Costa Rica in the early 1980s. “I always had to feel the bat. He’s the same. “
In high school at Gulliver Prep in Miami, Del Castillo completed a total of 29 home races from his second to final season. But it was his compact swing and ability to consistently drive baseball that enabled him to become more than just a power hitter.
“He’ll have parking spaces on the next level,” said the scout. “He has no weakness as a batsman. It’s about him adapting to the next level. “
Del Castillo was a White Sox selection in the 36th round in 2018, but chose Miami.
Del Castillo asserted his offensive potential in college. At the beginning of April he reached 17 home runs, 30 doubles, two triples, 108 RBIs and more walks (53) than strikeouts (44) .332 in his three-year career.
“Del’s swing isn’t like Ken Griffey’s or Darryl Strawberry’s, guys who had beautiful swings,” said Miami alum Manny Crespo, who coached Del Castillo at Gulliver. “These guys were trying to create some buoyancy and get the ball out of there. Adrian doesn’t necessarily try to do this on every stroke. His swing is more compact. He swings to hit the ball hard and get a good portion of the club onto the ball. “
Hurricanes that catch Coach Norberto Lopez said Del Castillo’s eyes and natural instincts are a big reason for his advanced striking tools. According to Lopez, the Hurricanes are partnering with doctors from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, who conduct eye exams on players to measure specific visual acuity on the plate.
“His ability to fixate on baseball is one of the best hits in the big leagues,” said Lopez. “He can really limit himself to what he sees on the pitches and not to what he does.”
Del Castillo started playing catcher when he was 6 years old, but has played corner field regularly over the course of his development. He’s only regularly playing catcher for the Hurricanes in his first full season.
And it is this lack of overall experience playing the position that begs questions as to whether it will stay there.
“He doesn’t have the plus arm strength that most catchers have, but his accuracy has improved dramatically and he’s faster with his transfers and he’s shown a quicker clearance,” said the scout.
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Lopez had a plan to help Del Castillo hone his behind the plate skills when he first arrived in Miami. This gave him more agility and speed when it came to blocking, receiving, and setting up his throws.
“Getting on your knee is something a lot of catchers do in the majors,” said Del Castillo. “You can see the ball better from the pitcher and are a bit calmer there. You’re not on both feet trying to balance and catch a playing field and thinking about where it’s going to go. “
During his first season in Miami in 2019, he made just 12 starts behind the plate.
But Del Castillo gained valuable experience as a catcher in the Cape Cod League as an aspiring sophomore. He hit .261 / .311 / .420 in 2019 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 138 bats. More importantly, Del Castillo gained a lot of knowledge while training under former Team Israel manager Jerry Weinstein during his game for Wareham.
Then the coronavirus pandemic shortened the 2020 season and limited it to 13 starts at Catcher. But the pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise in terms of Del Castillo’s development.
It gave him more time to train with Royals Big League catcher Salvador Perez and trainer Pedro Grifol in Pinecrest, Florida last summer.
There he also interacted with other major league catchers like the Marlins’ Jorge Alfaro and caught major league pitchers going through for training, like Angels closer to Raisel Iglesias.
“It was a good thing because I had a lot of time to work on catch and I was trying to get my body down and get a little bit bigger physically and I definitely did,” said Del Castillo.
DiMare and Lopez said they both received praise from referees after games this season for how much Del Castillo’s reception skills have improved.
“He’s blocking pitches that would have been wild pitches in the past,” said Miami right-handed Daniel Federman. “He’s quick on the ball. Every year I’ve thrown at him, he’s gotten better. His transfer is much better. . . He’s doing a lot better at keeping runners. I was working on a slip step in my delivery and was a little slower on the plate this year, but it kicked out a couple of runners for me. “
According to Lopez, Del Castillo is turning around 40% of those interfaces into strikes this year.
“When he got here, he couldn’t block particularly right,” said Lopez. “He had trouble getting balls on the side of his arm and blocking them in high school. He kept moving his body in a certain direction. He struggled with all of this. And now he’s completely changed that to become one of the best recipients in the country.
“The one knee posture allows him to go deeper and work under the ball, and he can really hide the movement of the baseball in the hook. He has very strong wrists and forearms to hold that pitch when he catches it so he can change it at the same time. “
Lopez said Del Castillo still has room for improvement when it comes to his accuracy and throws on the second base.
“I wish we had more time to improve his arm strength because I think there is more in it,” said Lopez. “His transfer and footwork are really good. It’s more because he’s played so many positions that it teaches him to throw as a catcher from a specific angle. It takes time, but I think he’ll improve that a lot in the small leagues. “
Though pitching coaches call the college-level pitches, Del Castillo is already learning what it takes to manage a pitching baton and lead the field and support his pitchers.
According to DiMare, Del Castillo is heavily involved in game planning for opponents and tracking down opposing pitchers.
“Guys are learning what to call games, but they are learning while listening, going through scouting reports, and studying other pitchers even though we coaches are calling the pitches,” DiMare said.
“He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do behind the plate.”