Teams always want to find value in the draft. The 16th round isn’t supposed to deliver top talent, but that is exactly what it did for the San Diego Padres in 2017 in the form of Joey Cantillo, at least so far.
In 31 games since joining the Padres organization Cantillo has started 22 of them, compiling 150 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA in 112 innings. Oh, and he is just 19.
The Hawaii native grew up playing any sport he could get his hands on. However, baseball did not always have his heart.
“I really played them all but it was soccer then baseball for the most part,” Cantillo said. “My dad played soccer in College at the University of Miami so he was a soccer guy. I’d say I was always a solid baseball player but once I got to high school that’s when the love for it really started.”
It’s good that baseball found a way into his heart, because the early returns on his career are very positive. Cantillo himself does not pay attention to things like this, but he has worked his way into the organization’s top prospect list, per MLB Pipeline. As number 30, he is a candidate to fall out once the new draftees are added, but don’t sleep on this southpaw.
Being so young and having this success comes from hard work and finding good influences in your life. Cantillo was able to do that both close to home and through television.
“I had the Dodgers channel at home so I really started to become a [Clayton] Kershaw fan and kind of idolize him and what he was able to do on and off the field,” Cantillo said. “My high school coach also was one of those guys that was really important for me.”
With those influences in place, Cantillo set his sights on the MLB Draft. That goal started to come into in the summer after his junior year, playing in the Area Code games. The he heard his name in the 16th round.
Entering the professional ranks straight out of high school is not an easy thing to do, let alone be successful doing. Lucky for Cantillo, he has a lot of the physical tools needed. He is armed with a fastball that sits in the 90 MPH range with movement, as well as changeup that grades out as his best pitch, per MLB Pipeline. Not to mention a 6’4”, 220 pound frame to throw from.
The step forward for Cantillo has been in the mental aspect of the game.
“As a player you understand the players you are competing against are so much better and get better with each level you go to,” Cantillo said. “But that’s where I think being really confident in yourself and your work come into play.”
Be confident. A simple formula that is yielding results for Cantillo, who is currently donning a Fort Wayne Tin Caps uniform.
Keeping busy off the field in Fort Wayne is not an issue for Cantillo. All he needs is a good movie or a good game on TV and he is all set.
“[I like] The Departed, The Da Vinci code, anything with Tom Cruise in it.” Cantillo said. “I usually watch my movies by the lead actors, so one week it’s all Leonardo DiCaprio then Tom Hanks etc.”
It is not a secret to anyone that the Padres farm system is strong. The players inside the system know that too. For Cantillio, he feels it makes him better. In order to rise above the competition he needs to push as hard as he can every day.
One thing is certain, especially from the eyes inside the organization. Good things are on the horizon.
“It’s also great to see all the work that goes in behind the scenes,” Cantillo said. “Not only the players but everyone involved with this organization to turn things around and I really think we’re gonna be successful for many years in the near future.”