In loaded Padres system, Cantillo stands out

20-year-old southpaw could be on fast track to big leagues

July 30th, 2020

The Padres’ farm system, consistently referred to as one of the best in baseball, is loaded with talent at all levels.

Joey Cantillo, the Padres’ No. 10 prospect, is not yet a household name, such as MacKenzie Gore or Luis Patiño, but those around the league are certainly aware of the youngster, who continuously posts eye-popping numbers.

The 20-year-old lefty sits in the low 90s with his fastball, has an above-average changeup and a curveball that has steadily improved since he was selected in the 16th round of the 2017 Draft.

“My fastball plays a lot higher than its velocity,” Cantillo said. “Some people see that 90 or the 92 or the 89 and they think, ‘Hey his fastball doesn’t really play, he doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses with it,’ but it’s actually the opposite.”

The numbers support Cantillo’s assertion.

Over the past two seasons, Cantillo has pitched to a 2.41 ERA and whiffed 207 over 160 2/3 innings. He’s also shown solid command with 4.22 strikeouts per walk during that span.

“When you start diving into some of the more advanced metrics of his fastball, it’s got certain characteristics that allow it to play above the velocity, and I think he’s starting to get a really good understanding of that and where it plays best in the strike zone,” Steve Lyons, the Padres’ Director of Pitching Development, said. “He’s got a really good feel to throw the baseball over the plate and he’s not afraid of guys swinging. He forces guys to swing the bat and his stuff -- his fastball for sure -- has really unique characteristics.”

The fastball, which Cantillo likes to throw up in the zone, stands out, but if he is going to develop into a Major League starting pitcher, he’ll need more in his arsenal.

The lefty has improved his changeup, a pitch he never threw in high school, and has made noticeable strides with his curveball as well.

“I feel really confident about it, dropping it in there and stealing strikes,” Cantillo said of his curveball. “I think eventually it’ll become another outpitch for me.”

Cantillo won’t pitch in the big leagues this season, but he is part of the Padres’ 60-man player pool and had the opportunity to put his stuff on display against Major League hitters during Summer Camp.

Cantillo said his stuff played against some of the biggest names in the Padres’ lineup and the experience, which he referred to as his first Major League Spring Training, will further his development.

“Obviously you want to play a full season so they can play their full slate of innings,” Lyons said. “But the experience of being here in this environment and the talent level that they’re having to face -- it’s a big ask -- but I think the long-term and short-term benefits of it are going to be so positive and it’s going to springboard them into future years.”

Cantillo also sees the benefits of working out at the Padres’ alternate site camp at the University of San Diego, as competing against his peers allows Cantillo to receive instant feedback from the hitters.

Still five months away from his 21st birthday, Cantillo was one of the youngest players in his Draft class. The Padres won’t rush him to the Majors, but if he continues carve up opposing lineups he’ll find himself on the fast track to San Diego.

“I don’t think we’ll ever hold somebody back because of their age,” Lyons said. “We want to continue to challenge guys and if they perform, then they continue to move.”