Everyone Should Bet on Luis Castillo to Win the AL Cy Young

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We fell asleep last night knowing the football season was over but woke up to baseball season staring us right in the face. Pitchers and catchers are set to report this week, with full roster workouts a week away and Spring Training just a few days past that.

There are still a few dominoes to fall ahead of the MLB regular season, but now is the time to enter the futures market to ensure maximum value. We’re leading off with a breakdown of why Luis Castillo is the man to beat in the AL Cy Young race. 

Mariners’ Ace

Since landing in the Emerald City, Luis Castillo has cemented himself as the Seattle Mariners’ ace. The three-time All-Star led the team in wins and ERA en route to a top-five finish in last year’s Cy Young voting.

Moreover, Castillo has proven to be a high-volume performer, which is a pivotal factor in securing the best pitcher award. He led the league with 33 starts in 2023, the second time in three years in which he’s claimed that distinction. 

Indeed, matching that output in 2024, bolsters the case Castillo deserves Cy Young consideration. 

Elite Strikeout Metrics

Striking out batters isn’t a prerequisite for Cy Young glory, but it goes a long way. Not including the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, 26 of the past 28 winners have eclipsed 200 punchouts. That’s a threshold Castillo should have no problem matching in 2024. 

The hard-throwing righty totaled 219 Ks last season. That was the second-best strikeout total of his career, coming painstakingly close to his previous career-best of 226 set with the Cincinnati Reds back in 2019.

But even when he’s fallen short of that benchmark, Castillo’s smoke is something few batters can catch up with. He’s recorded a 10.0 K/9 rate or higher in five of his past six seasons, posting elite underlying chase and whiff metrics to boot.

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Improving WHIP and Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio

One area of improvement for Castillo to get over the hump and win the Cy Young is improving walk metrics and allowing fewer baserunners. Thankfully, he’s trending downward since coming to Seattle. 

Castillo had one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios of his career in 2023, posting a 219-to-56 ratio or 3.91 rating. However, that’s somewhat lower than what he demonstrated in his first half-season with the M’s. In 11 starts in 2022, Castillo was humming along at 77-to-6, or 4.53.

If he can get back to that level, his ERA will naturally come down, amplifying his appeal as the best arm in the American League.

Friendly Confines

Lastly, Castillooperatese in one of the most pitcher-friendly confines in the bigs. Over the last three years, T-Mobile Park has been rated as the pre-eminent pitchers’ ballpark, with the lowest Park Factor rating in the MLB. That environment offsets some of the hard-contact issues that Castillo deals with, keeping his home run total and ERA in check.

Final Thoughts

There is no shortage of quality arms in the American League, and that’s reflected in the betting market. Sixteen pitchers are priced at +2700 or better to win the Cy Young, with Castillo hovering near the front of that pack at +1200. 

Considering his high-volume profile, elite strikeout stuff, and improved walk/baserunner metrics, Castillo is poised to ratchet higher on that futures board as soon as the 2024 season gets started. The Mariners’ ace has found a Cy Young-caliber rhythm in Seattle, and this is the year Castillo gets rewarded for it.

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