Tigers lose Castro on waivers to Blue Jays

December 8th, 2020

DETROIT -- The joy on ’s face following his Major League debut July 27 was one of the bright spots of the Tigers’ 2020 season. It turned out to be the right-hander’s only appearance with the club.

The Tigers, facing a Monday deadline to clear a roster spot ahead of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, lost Castro on a waiver claim by the Blue Jays after trying to outright the reliever to the Minor Leagues. Detroit now has 39 players on its 40-man roster, allowing the team to select a player in the Rule 5, as it has every year since 2016.

The Rule 5 Draft each December allows teams to add young talent by plucking prospects who aren’t on other organizations’ 40-man rosters. Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons, or they become eligible to be drafted. Players signed at age 19 or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 26-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

Castro ranked 17th on MLB Pipeline’s Tigers prospect list after an eye-opening 2019 season at Double-A Erie. The Tigers added the 25-year-old Venezuelan to their 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, then called him up early in the shortened 2020 season. He allowed a two-run homer to Kansas City’s Brett Phillips, who later became a World Series hero with the Rays, but completed his inning with a strikeout of Bubba Starling. The Tigers optioned him to the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, shortly after that.

Castro ascended Tigers prospect lists with a fastball that has a lot of natural movement, complemented by a buckling curveball. He has struggled to command those pitches, but when he did, he dominated hitters at Double-A in 2019, striking out 116 batters. He allowed just 75 hits over 102 1/3 innings for the SeaWolves, but also surrendered 65 walks. He likely would’ve opened next season at Triple-A Toledo to gain experience, but will become a Blue Jays project instead.

Unless Castro returns to the Tigers at some point, he’ll be the 10th pitcher in the last 20 years to make exactly one appearance for Detroit, joining Josh Smoker, William Cuevas, Melvin Mercedes, Kevin Whelan, Jay Sborz, Lino Urdaneta, Jason Jimenez, Kris Keller and Erik Sabel. Mercedes, Sborz and Keller made their big league debuts with Detroit and never pitched in the Majors again. Detroit traded Keller a few weeks after his debut to Atlanta for a young outfielder named George Lombard, who rejoined the Tigers last month as the bench coach under new manager A.J. Hinch.