Q&A with Joey Cantillo, intriguing Guardians prospect

February 22nd, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The hype is building around Joey Cantillo.

The 23-year-old lefty went from entering pro ball with a heater that sat in the upper 80s to suddenly closing in on triple digits. But the club’s No. 22 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has dealt with injuries over the last few years, causing many to wonder about his durability. If Castillo can stay healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the big leagues at some point in 2023.

With Cantillo now on the 40-man roster, MLB.com chatted with him at big league camp about a variety of topics:

MLB.com: You’ve had a couple of injury hiccups in the past. Was your health a big focus of the offseason?

Cantillo: Yeah, it was my priority. It was just strength in like my shoulders and doing everything to put myself in the best position to handle the workload. Whether that is 100 innings, 150 innings, whatever is asked of me. But also just keep the same intensity and keep the velocity and everything there to where I can feel like I can be my best self, but be healthy while doing that and not have to sacrifice one or the other.

MLB.com: Do you feel like you’ve made a lot of strides since joining this organization in 2020?

Cantillo: I feel like I have made a lot of strides, but at the same time, it’s an ongoing evolution. I think from where I was two years ago, just coming off of an injury, coming to a new organization, trying to learn a bunch of stuff, I think there was definitely a time in 2021, I was pitching with no confidence. I didn’t really feel like myself on the mound, and I feel like I’ve progressed to a better point where I’m back to the confidence that is so important on the mound.

I think there’s definitely a lot of things we’re in the process of working on right now. Like, I’m by no means a finished product, and I think it’s cool to be in here. You’re the lowest on the totem pole again and you’re looking up to guys like, 'I want to do what you’re doing. How do I do that?' It’s that combination, at least in my eyes, of learning from the older guys, but also understanding what I do well. Understanding my strengths and not necessarily trying to change anything in that sense, but just taking in new information to see if I can help some of my weaknesses. I’m just really excited.

MLB.com: How would you describe the Guardians’ pitching development staff?

Cantillo: Just the best. That’s what I would describe it as. I think just internally the people they have, the minds they have and then the way they’re able to do it. ... They do the best job with taking the information and data that’s out there, but applying it to a player and applying it to where a player can take that information and use it, which I feel like a lot of other organizations probably struggle in that sense of, like, 'How do we take all this objective data?' and apply it to actual 'How do I get outs?'

MLB.com: You were part of a group of players in Cleveland’s system who attended the home playoff games last year. What was that like for you?

Cantillo: For me, it was cool to see guys that I know personally be playing in these games. ... It reassures what I’m doing in my eyes, too, of like, 'Hey, this is the time to do it, this is the time to contribute, time to do what we’re supposed to be doing, honestly.'

MLB.com: Being from Hawaii, did you grow up surfing?

Cantillo: I honestly grew up bodyboarding and body surfing more, but I’ve been surfing since I was in pro ball. ... It’s basically just surfing now, which is great for the body. Great for the mind.

MLB.com: Fast forward to this upcoming offseason. You’re reflecting on how your 2023 campaign went. What would a successful season look like to you?

Cantillo: I have some ideas in my mind. I mean I’ll keep it simple: Knowing I did everything that I could do to put myself in the best positions and ultimately put my team in the best positions. Knowing I did everything I could do to be what I was supposed to be for the season. And what that is, we’ll only see.