TinCaps lefty Cantillo named MWL Pitcher of the Month

Sports

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – TinCaps starting pitcher Joey Cantillo earned the Midwest League Uncle Ray’s Player of the Month award for June, Minor League Baseball announced on Wednesday. In recognition of the honor, Cantillo will receive an award from Minor League Baseball and Uncle Ray’s, the “Official Potato Chip of Minor League Baseball,” before a TinCaps game at Parkview Field in July.

The 19-year-old left-hander from Hawaii made four starts in June, posting a league-low 0.36 ERA across 25 innings. Cantillo struck out 30 batters, while walking only one. His batting average against (.099) and WHIP (0.36) were also the best in the MWL. Along the way, Cantillo won the league’s Pitcher of the Week award two consecutive weeks to close the month, becoming the first Midwest League pitcher to claim the honor in back-to-back weeks since 2017.

“I’m thankful for this award,” Cantillo said. “I’m also grateful for my teammates and coaches in the San Diego Padres organization. I plan to continue to work hard to improve and help our team win more games in this second half of the season.”

Cantillo is the fourth TinCap to win such an honor since the Midwest League began awarding a Player of the Month in 2013. He’s the first Fort Wayne pitcher to garner the accolade, following third baseman Hudson Potts in Aug. 2017, catcher Austin Allen in April 2016, and outfielder Nick Schulz in Aug. 2014.

“The run Joey has been on over the last couple months has been fun to watch,” said TinCaps pitching coach Matt Williams. “It’s a byproduct of the work that he puts in between his outings.”   

The Padres’ 16th round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft twirled a masterful start on June 26 at home against the South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs affiliate). He tossed a career-long eight scoreless innings while taking a no-hitter into the seventh. Cantillo, who MLB.com rates as the 30thth best prospect in San Diego’s farm system, racked up nine strikeouts with no walks and just two singles allowed.

The last time a TinCaps pitcher had thrown eight scoreless innings was Sept. 9, 2011, when left-hander Mark Hardy did it in a playoff game. The last Fort Wayne pitcher to throw eight scoreless in a regular season start was Corey Kluber on Aug. 19, 2008.

Cantillo, who was committed to the University of Kentucky before signing with the Padres, was also outstanding on June 20, striking out a career-high 10 batters in six scoreless innings against the Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate) in Midland, Mich. He allowed just two singles and no walks in that start as well.

Before that, on June 11, it was five scoreless innings on the road versus the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay Rays affiliate), in which he allowed just a single to Wander Franco, the top prospect in Minor League Baseball.

The former Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year at Kailua High School started June with six innings of one-run ball against the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians affiliate) on the 5th. After surrendering a solo home run, he closed the month with 22 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames. For what it’s worth, all four opponents have winning records on the season and rank among the top six teams in the league in OPS.

Cantillo’s sterling June is just part of what has been a sensational season. His 1.83 ERA is the lowest in the MWL and the third lowest in all of Minor League Baseball. The same goes for his 0.81 WHIP, while his .159 average against ranks second in MiLB.

Cantillo, who throws a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup, has struck out 90 batters, which also leads the league, in 69 innings. To put it another way, he’s striking out 34% of batters, or 11.74 batters per nine innings. At the same time, he’s walked just 6% of opponents. That 28% disparity between K% and BB% is another category in which he leads the MWL.

Advanced metrics like Cantillo, too. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which is comparable to ERA) of 2.11 is the best in the MWL, and so is his 2.48 xFIP

Believe it or not, he’s accomplished these numbers despite having an inconsistent April. But since the calendar turned to May, in 10 starts, Cantillo’s ERA is a miniscule 0.78 with 71 strikeouts to nine walks in 57 1/3 innings pitched.

Keep in mind, the average age for a pitcher in the Midwest League this season is 21.9 years old. The average age for a hitter is 21.2 years old. Cantillo won’t turn 20 until Dec. 18 as he’s one of the youngest pitchers in the league.

In addition to Cantillo’s awards this season, infielder Tucupita Marcanowas the circuit’s Offensive Player of the Week for the week of April 29-May 5. Infielder Xavier Edwards, starting pitcher Ryan Weathers, and reliever Henry Henrywere all selected for the Midwest League All-Star Game.  

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