The 2019 season was an impressive year for San Diego Padres’ pitching prospect Joey Cantillo. Even more impressive is the growth the left-hander has shown in his thought process about pitching.
Playing sports in the Hawaiian Islands, there is a common saying- “Hawaii against the world.”
If you grow up in a tropical paradise and play sports competitively at the high school level, it is challenging to get noticed. There are just fewer opportunities to play tournaments and such against the highest level of competition from your age group. The only way to do so is by traveling to the mainland, and that is not an easy task for families. Since high school athletes are generally unknown from the area, Joey Cantillo, from Kailua Hawaii, fell in the 2017 MLB Draft to the 16th round. The Padres scouted the hitter/pitcher and knew he committed to Kentucky, but they pulled the trigger anyway on the selection.
The Padres are certainly glad they did so as Cantillo is blossoming.
In speaking to the young hurler, right away, you get a sense that he knows what he wants. He is clear and honest about his progression in the game. “I went through a lot of changes this past year. I think at the bare root of pitching, or what a lot of young pitchers don’t realize is- that we complicate things more than we should,” Cantillo said. That statement speaks volumes to the way he processes information. The tall lefty is calm and collected on the mound and showed that this year in Fort Wayne, posting a 9-3 record with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.867 WHIP in 19 starts and 98 innings pitched.
The Midwest League All-Star pitched tremendously well for a 19-year-old and was rewarded with a late-season call-up to the California League and the Lake Elsinore Storm. “Those three starts were okay. One was okay. The other two were not that great,” Cantillo said about his time with the Storm. “I lost my fastball command. I am confident in myself, and I can definitely dominate in that league. It was a good taste of what that league has to offer. Getting a little taste of that failure is something I will use this offseason. I am excited to, hopefully, be out there next year,” Cantillo explains. He is truthful about his time in California and promises to use it as motivation to dominate. Cantillo expects to be in Lake Elsinore to begin the 2020 season. “That is the goal. To start there,” Cantillo said.
2019 was a coming-out party of sorts for the pitcher. He was tremendous with his improvement across the boards. Mechanics improved, velocity increased, and more importantly, he grew as a pitcher. “My goal this year was to be simple and throw strikes. Not get too fine. Trust your stuff. You here these cliches of the game, but they are not cliches. The way my stuff plays, throwing strikes is just common sense,” Cantillo said. The left-hander is a pitcher and not a thrower. At an early age, he is already showing the propensity to record outs. Quickly and efficiently.
Adding velocity to his repertoire helped in 2019 for the Hawaiian pitcher. For a guy who typically sits in the high 80’s to hit 93 and 94 mph this season in a few starts is something to take notice of. Cantillo indeed added velocity, which was bound to happen as he matures into his body. Cantillo explains that it goes beyond that. “It was a combination of things. The work I did in the offseason and in the weight room was big. I think it is also in search of my mechanics that have also helped me. Using more muscles in my body like my legs and glutes have helped a lot,” Cantillo said. He praises his gym work but does admit he went beyond that to prepare for the 2019 season. “I am more efficient with my body now. I am getting into better angles and such that you hear some guys talk about,” Cantillo said.
In speaking about angles and such, the conversation turned towards analytics and the Rapsodo Machine. “We have them. For some guys, it is great. I don’t get too caught up in the numbers. I think analytics are great, but at this point in my career, I have not done enough with them to be all-in on them. I have worked with the machines a lot, though,” Cantillo said about the machines. He is still learning about how the machines can help you. In time, hopefully, most of the young Padres prospects will be more familiar with the technology.
For those that don’t know- Joey Cantillo is a pretty good hitter.
The left-handed swinger was named after Joe Dimaggio by his father, who is a big Yankees fan. Cantillo was decorated in Hawaii and celebrated for his swing. He is anxious to show off his skills with the bat soon at the upper minor league levels. “I definitely am excited to swing the bat. I have been joking around with my buddies at home. I know I can hit. Once they start throwing 98 with devastating sliders, I am going to have a hard time, but I am still excited. Hopefully, when I get to that point, I can help the team and have some fun with it. I am very confident in my hitting abilities,” Cantillo said. There will be a time when he will swing a bat. The pitcher is very close to the Double-A level, and beyond that anything is possible. Make no mistake; his paycheck will be earned on the mound as Cantillo brings a special kind of talent to the game of baseball. Mahalo.