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AFL Rising Stars Showcase Tonight: Fabio Castillo Pitches For Rangers

MLB is holding their annual Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Showcase game tonight on the MLB Network at 8:00 CDT. The only Ranger participating is Fabio Castillo, but this appearance should be of interest to Rangers fans. Last November, many fans got their first glance at supplemental first-rounder Tanner Sheppers in the game, and this will be most fans' initial look at Castillo.

For those with question marks bobbing over your heads, here's a little background on the righty. Back in 2005, the Rangers decided to get serious about their international scouting efforts. They built a new, nice academy in the Dominican Republic and restocked an international budget that had shrunk under Doug Melvin and disappeared in Grady Fuson's early years. While the Rangers didn't hand out any bonuses over $400,000 that first year, they sunk a lot of time, money and effort into scouting, and their headline player was Castillo.

While the program has since seen players like Martin Perez, Wilmer Font, Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas emerge as serious prospects, Castillo and the other headline signees from 2005 had begun to carry the 'bust' tag. After looking like one of the highest upside arms in the Texas system for his first year after signing and despite a major league 6-2, 220 lb body, Castillo's stuff faded and his confidence disappeared. He floundered for two years in the Low A levels, then moved to the bullpen full-time in 2009 and made some progress.

In 2010 he really broke out, surviving the offensive California League while seeing his stuff return to its highest levels.

Jamey Newberg was at the instructional league and recounts what he's seen from Castillo this year:

His velocity was up to 94-97, he was commanding a nasty slider, his second-half ERA was 1.04 (.189 opponents' average, 2.31 G/F, no home runs), and late in August -- in the midst of a stretch in which he hadn't allowed an earned run in 15 games (17 innings, nine hits [seven singles and two doubles], six walks, 26 strikeouts) -- he was promoted to Frisco for a bigger challenge.

Castillo gave up a couple runs in his first AA relief appearance but put up scoreless efforts his next four times out (including two appearances in the Texas League playoffs). His stuff was creating a buzz that had been missing since his first couple years in the system. A buzz that might be the strongest of any pitcher in Surprise [Rangers fall instructs] right now.

The Rangers entered 2010 knowing that they faced a potentially tough call on whether to add Castillo to their 40-man roster. He's seemingly made that call easier for them with his strong 2010. Command is still an issue, as he walked 30 in 55 innings this season and posted a K/BB ratio of just over two, a mediocre number for a reliever. But he'll start 2011 back in Frisco and his stuff puts him on the radar as a big bullpen arm, something that the Rangers will want to add to what was essentially a finesse setup group.

Tonight, you can check him out for yourself.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.