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Cantillo debuts for Tin Caps as playoffs near

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2017 16th-round pick Joey Cantillo debuted in the Midwest League Thursday. Here is everything you need to know, with thoughts from Cantillo himself.

Lance Brozdowski

Joey Cantillo, the Padres 2017 16th-rounder, encountered a variety of first-time events Thursday. The 6-foot-4 lefty made his first start for a full-season affiliate of the Padres organization and tied up the Lake County Captains’ (CLE affiliate) Will Benson for his first Midwest League strikeout.

It was also the first time the high schooler from Kailua, Hawaii, was in the state of Indiana. Cantillo signed out of Kailua High School after winning Gatorade’s state player of the year award and passing on an opportunity to pitch for the University of Kentucky.

“I felt like playing pro ball and signing at 17 [years old] was a good thing to do and I’m happy I did from a development standpoint,” Cantillo said. “The Padres are a great organization and I never looked back.”

Cantillo logged 45 strikeout-heavy innings with the Rookie-level Arizona League Padres before his Fort Wayne debut. The results deviated from his track record, but he remains a high-upside arm in a farm system overflowing with talent.

“I thought I started off pretty good with fastball command and everything, just pounding fastballs and then, I’m not going to say I lost my focus, but I lost the command on my fastball,” Cantillo said. “I got deep into counts, a lot of first-pitch balls.”

Cantillo cruised through two innings, allowing only two baserunners, one earned run and striking out three batters on 34 pitches. He started to waver in the third inning when he allowed two more baserunners. By the fourth inning, the fastball command Cantillo admitted he lost became apparent. After relinquishing two hits and one walk, even with two outs, Manager Anthony Contreras pulled Cantillo from the game at 74 pitches.

Tin Caps reliever Fred Schlichtholz surrendered both of Cantillo’s runs and two of his own on a home run from the Captains’ premiere talent, Will Benson.

Cantillo’s final line: 3 23 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Cantillo’s fastball sat between 86-89 mph with arm-side life. His changeup acted as his primary off-speed pitch, sitting 76-78 mph and generating uncomfortable swinging strikes. The pitch appeared to have multiples shapes throughout the game, with substantial depth and fade in some instances and hard, lateral run on rarer occasions. “Funk” describes Cantillo’s offerings well, as one amateur scout said of the lefty’s pitch mix.

“That’s what it’s been all year, fastball-changeup, I didn’t throw as many changeups as I usually do just because I was behind in the count,” Cantillo said. “But when I’m throwing that [well] it’s a good pitch with good depth and fade... Sometimes when I’m ahead in the count I’ll try to spike my changeup too much instead of just throwing it hard over the plate”

Speaking after the game, Cantillo mentioned he threw only one curveball, a pitch he mixes in to left-handed hitters on occasion to presumably veer away from high levels of lefty-lefty changeups. Cantillo’s pregame bullpen offered better looks at his curveball. The pitch had a natural 12-6, overhand feel from his high three-quarters release point.

Cantillo’s mechanics possess some funk as well. His release point is high compared to a natural three-quarters delivery from a shorter pitcher. This creates substantial downhill plane on his fastball. In the video within the tweet above, you can see an aggressive head knock that pulls his eyes off the catcher’s target after releasing a pitch. The athleticism and fluidity in his mechanics given how large Cantillo’s frame is make for promising future projection.

The Captains weren’t afraid to run their way towards a 12-4 victory either. Three bases were stolen on Cantillo as he works on the efficiency of his delivery from the stretch.

“I think he was a little bit slow to the plate and we talked about it,” Tin Caps manager Anthony Contreras said about Cantillo’s start. “But the thing is when you’re so young like that, you’re working of specific areas of your game, and he’ll learn after he gets guys stealing off him like that more and more.

“[You] gotta change something up, either a slide step or just be quicker to the plate, create some kind of movement that runners can’t tell if [the pitcher] is going to the plate or not.”

Despite the critique, Contreras was pleased with Cantillo’s debut, admiring his “poise” and ability to quickly settle in to a game with playoff implications for Fort Wayne.

“Hopefully I get another start,” Cantillo said. “[Parkview Field] is amazing--the fans and the stadium.”

Friday marks the last guaranteed home game at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Tin Caps travel to face the West Michigan White Caps (DET affiliate) Saturday in a three-game series that will decide the opponent of the Great Lakes Loons (LAD affiliate). If the Tin Caps win two of three, they’ll host the Loons Wednesday in Fort Wayne to start the eastern division quarterfinal.

At only 18 years old, Cantillo represents another high-upside arm in the Padres organization. His changeup will create a substantial swing-and-miss floor against Midwest League hitters. Fluid mechanics and a large frame provide hope for future command projection with adjustment. Keep Cantillo on your radar.