Top Performers: Is Orlando Castro a Lefty Starter to Watch?

Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten scores are highlighted in the write-up below. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had two “gems” this week. Five of their starters had game scores of 60 or higher. Both of these totals are down from last week, when the Pirates had five gems and eight pitchers at 60 or higher. Here are the top performers.

1. Orlando Castro – Last year, Castro was constantly at the top of this list during his time in the West Virginia rotation. He looks to be off to a good start in Bradenton this year, with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, along with an 11:0 K/BB ratio. The path he is taking in High-A is similar to his route through low-A. He mostly pitched out of the bullpen during his first run through West Virginia, and the results were just decent. He finally made the jump to the rotation, where he was dominant. Then he moved up to High-A, where he switched back to the bullpen after struggling in the rotation at first. Once again, the results were alright, but nothing like how he ended his time in West Virginia. Now it looks like he’s back to dominating after he’s had some experience in the league.

This type of path usually raises questions about the success, since it could be fueled by familiarity with a league. Castro has better stuff than most left-handers, but gets a lot of his results with good control and off-speed stuff. That’s generally going to lead to great numbers in A-ball, but that approach becomes more common in the upper levels, and thus it becomes harder for a guy like Castro to continue this type of success. If he does continue this success, he should get a shot at Double-A by the end of the season.

2. Jason Creasy – He threw six shutout innings on Sunday, giving up a walk and four hits. So far, Creasy has a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings over three starts. He’s not dominating with strikeouts, putting up just a 5:5 K/BB ratio so far. Creasy generates a lot of ground balls, and so far this year his GO/AO ratio of 1.62 is the best of his career, beating out last year’s 1.20 in West Virginia. Creasy was an eighth round pick in the 2011 draft that has produced Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes.

3. Nick Kingham – This is the second week in a row that Kingham has put up one of the top three stat lines in the system. He gave up one run on three hits in six innings, with three walks and four strikeouts. The walks have been an issue with Kingham since jumping to Double-A. So far in Altoona, between last year and this year, he has a 3.8 BB/9 ratio. That’s not horrible, but it’s well above the 1.8 BB/9 ratio he had in Bradenton last year, and the 2.6 BB/9 that he had in West Virginia in 2012. Kingham has some of the best fastball command in the system, so I don’t expect these control issues to last.

4. Jeff Locke – Locke made his final rehab start in Bradenton this week, striking out ten batters in six innings of work to land in the top five. After the start, he was moved up to Indianapolis to continue his rehab. I detailed Locke’s rehab start here.

5. Casey Sadler – For the second week in a row, Sadler put up a game score of 62. This time he gave up two runs in seven innings, with a 5:2 K/BB ratio. So far this year he has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings over two starts, with an 8:3 K/BB ratio. Sadler is a sinkerball pitcher, and his game revolves around getting ground balls. He has done a good job in that regard, with a 1.80 GO/AO ratio in his first two games. He had a 1.74 GO/AO ratio in Altoona last year.

6. Adrian Sampson – Sampson is a guy to watch, possessing the stuff to be a Major League starter, and possibly a sleeper middle of the rotation guy if it all clicks. He had a great start in Altoona this week, giving up one run on three hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. Sampson had good control last year in Bradenton, but was hit around too much. So far this year he has been limiting the damage.

7. Adam Wilk – With Jameson Taillon and Jeff Locke out at the start of the season, Wilk was one of two minor league free agents who received a rotation spot. Now that Locke has returned to Indianapolis, there’s only one spot remaining. It looks like Wilk could keep that spot, especially with more starts like we saw this past week. The lefty gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

8. Buddy Borden – Borden is a high upside right-hander with a fastball that can hit 96 MPH. This week he threw five shutout innings, giving up one walk and striking out four. Borden was drafted out of college last year, and is starting the season in West Virginia. If he keeps putting up strong numbers, he could be a candidate to move up to Bradenton during the second half of the season.

9. Dovydas Neverauskas – The tall right-hander from Lithuania had two great starts this week, combining for a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings, with a 9:4 K/BB ratio. Neverauskas is 21 years old, and consistently hits 95 MPH on the radar gun, although his control does escape him from time to time. The start that got him on this list was the second one, on Sunday, when he gave up one run on four hits in five innings, with a walk and four strikeouts.

10. Pat Ludwig – He didn’t technically start, but Ludwig did pitch an extended role out of the bullpen in a piggyback situation. After Chad Kuhl struggled, Ludwig came on for four innings, giving up one run on three hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. He gave up a home run to the first batter he saw for the lone run, then settled down after that, looking great the rest of his outing.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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IMHO – one of the downsides of the advent of handheld radar guns and radar guns clocking every pitch thrown at every stadium in MLB, MiLB, and even college, has been the seemingly over infatuation and emphasis placed on velocity – with less emphasis on control, ability to actually pitch, and most importantly – performance and results. Yes, its good to be able throw hard – as long as you also have control, can change speeds, have movement on the fastball, and know how to out guess and fool batters. If he was coming up in the minors today, I wonder if a guy like Greg Maddux would be rated that highly?


I see Altoona is in Harrisburg this week…does anyone know if Kingham will likely pitch in this series? If yes, on what day/date?


Castro = Youman


Would your critique of Orlando Castro have applied equally well to Wandy Rodriguez as Wandy was working his way up the minors? I think there is a place in MLB for a pitcher with craftiness and control.


It will depend on whether he can continue to get guys out. Everyone, except the elite, eventually rises to their level of incompetence. In management circles it used to be called the “Peter Principle”.The percentage of total minor leaguers who get beyond AA is quite small. But I like rooting for the underdog.

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