Thursday, August 18, 2016

Will You Lendy Me Your Castillo?

Nevermind, I finally found my own!

When it comes to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, there are very few gaps left to be filled in from the modern era.  In fact, since the establishment of Topps, there is only one player who has a standard base card in any of their flagship sets left for me to acquire (if anyone has a 1967 NL Rookies #576 card ft. Norm Gigon, I'd love to talk trade).  Of course, there are still a couple handfuls of players without that standard release left to track down, but you get the idea.

Narrowing this down a little further, when it comes to Cubs who played during my lifetime, I have at least card of every single one of them.  However, for several years, there had been one not-so-notable exception to that fact and it was an exceptionally frustrating gap:  a relief pitcher by the name of Lendy Castillo.

Thankfully, that dragon has now been slain and I have a card of everyone to don a Cubs uniform during my time on Earth (since 1989):

I have to say, this is a pretty nifty card to slay that beast with too; it features one of the local minor league teams during their brief time as a Cubs affiliate, a fact which you can easily see thanks to the prominent "Cubs" patch on Lendy's chest, and it's autographed.  Not to mention, it's a pretty sharp design.

Plus, this minor league single only cost me two bucks shipped - seeing as MiLB team issue singles are oftentimes be ridiculously priced, I think two George Washington flashcards for a Cubbie blue-ink signed copy is a pretty sweet deal.

I had intended to go to a Kane County game that next summer with as a volunteer for a local charity event, hoping that I might find a discounted team set from the previous year in the gift shop.  Unfortunately, that event was cancelled and I just kept kicking the can down the road.  Now, they're not even a Cubs affiliate anymore and Ebay had to suffice.

For completeness sake, let's flip it over and take a look at the back:

Obviously, the back is a not-so-subtle "nod" to 2012 Topps; I guess Grandstand can get away with that.

Anywho, if you can read that text, you might just be able to see why Lendy was such a difficult guy to track down for my CATRC binder.  As the statistical information notates, Mr. Castillo was a Rule 5 draft choice in December of 2011.

While there are some notable exceptions, the Rule 5 draft oftentimes leads to players who have no business being in the Major Leagues being stashed on the 25-man roster in hopes of discovering a hidden gem.  For every Johan Santana or Odubel Herrera who defies the odds and sticks, there are infinitely more Lendy Enrique Artiles Castillos.

Lendy during his time in the Phillies org, image courtesy of the Cubs Den

The Cubs were in full-on rebuild mode going into the 2012 season and there was no illusion of contention in the near future.  As such, the newly installed "Theocracy" was looking for any avenue to import talent into the desolate wasteland of potential that was the Cubs farm system, Rule 5 draft included.  When Major League wins don't really matter, you can afford to waste a roster spot on a potential sleeper prospect

The plan with Castillo was to keep him on the MLB roster for as long as needed and then continue to work on his development in the minors after his rights were fully secured.

The problem was that Lendy didn't know how to pitch... literally.  Signed by the Phillies as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Castillo had never even toed the rubber until midway through the 2010 season.  In terms of prospect status, he was about as raw as a bloody steak... and just as good for your health, too.

It can't be fun to be teed off on day in and day out, image courtesy of the Cubs Den

With such little experience against even minor league pitchers, he didn't stand a chance in the majors, no matter how live his arm was (his fastball touched 96 mph), and he was promptly lit up like a Christmas tree.  All in all, over the course of 16.0 innings spread across 13 appearances out of the bullpen, Castillo posted a dismal 7.88 ERA and, though he struck out 13, he also walked 12 and hit 3 batters.  Clearly, even for a team on it's way to 101 losses, he was hard to stomach.

Like many teams do with Rule 5'ers, the Cubs stashed him on the DL for a long while as a means to pad out his necessary Big League stay, a common practice across the league for trying to hide such a player on the 25 man roster.  After the season, the Cubs sent Lendy back down to the minors to work on his control and no one batted an eye.

Unfortunately, several months later, the Phillies cried foul on the DL/roster manipulation and filed a successful grievance.  As a result, Philadelphia was awarded the Cubs Rule 5 draft slot in the 2013 edition of the event.  Nevertheless, the Cubs maintained the rights to the relief prospect.

Anyway, all of that brings us back to this card.  Lendy found himself on the Cubs farm, playing across three levels through the 2014 season.  However, he never really righted the ship with his control; his time in low-A Kane County was particularly awful, with a 6.58 ERA and 1.72 K/W ratio.

So, like many a Rule 5'er, his raw ability just never translated into measurable success on the diamond.  He was released after the '14 campaign and has continued to bounce from franchise to franchise since.  Currently, Lendy is an Akron Rubber Duck, toiling in AA with Cleveland.

All in all, seeing as Mr. Castillo was never a big ticket prospect, barely touched the Major Leagues and has been a minor league nomad since, he has never been included in a mass-produced baseball card set.  In fact, to my knowledge, he's only even appeared in one other MiLB team set; thus, my options for adding him to my CATRC binder were quite limited.

His only other baseball card... and a great example of the price gauging commonly found on minor league singles

But, luckily that's all moot now that I was finally able to get my hands on a Lendy that is both reasonably priced and nifty.  After all, it's only the 41st card in my CATRC binder to be graced with a John Hancock.

In the post Lendy Castillo-era, the Cubs have only made one true selection* in the Rule 5 draft and I think it's safe to assume that everyone who reads this will agree that picking Hector Rondon during the next go round in 2012 worked out much, much, much better.  It's a damn good thing that the Phillies took so long to file their grievance, otherwise they might have lost that pick instead of the '13 pick.

Staying off of the carousel is all well and good with me - selfishly, because as I've detailed in this very post, locating cards of these kind of middling/unheralded players isn't always such an easy task.

Not as easy as 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C...

* The Cubs drafted Taylor Featherston from the Rockies in 2014, but it was part of a pre-arranged deal with the Angels and he was immediately traded for cash considerations.  They never intended to keep him.


  1. Congrats on filling all the holes to the "Tony's lifetime" portion of your collection!!

  2. $6 for shipping? Was it hand-delivered by the seller?

  3. The 2013 Kane County Cougars team set is one of my favorites. You're right about the design: it's very nice! I believe The Vogelmonster is in that set!