Making the most of an opportunity to continue his professional baseball career, Ryan Casteel made a strong spring training impression to earn a spot in the Atlanta Braves organization.After a …
Making the most of an opportunity to continue his professional baseball career, Ryan Casteel made a strong spring training impression to earn a spot in the Atlanta Braves organization.
After a standout year of playing independent ball in 2018, the former Bradley Central and Cleveland State slugger was signed by his favorite childhood team in January, and is now in Mississippi joining the Braves' Double-A squad for the new season.
"I had a great spring and made some good impressions," related Casteel Sunday. "It's really exciting to get this opportunity."
Playing in the Southern League for the second time, Casteel and his Braves teammates will open the minor league campaign with a five-game series in Knoxville, beginning Thursday.
The games against the Tennessee Smokies will start at 6 p.m. each day, except Sunday, which is a 1 p.m. first pitch.
The Braves will travel back to Jackson, Miss., for their home openers April 10-14 against the Mobile (Ala.) BayBears, before making their only trip to Chattanooga this season to battle the Lookouts April 15-19.
"Getting a chance to play for our 'hometown team' is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid," related Ryan Casteel as he starts his 10th professional season.
The 17th round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 is with his third Major League Baseball organization, having also played in the Seattle Mariners' farm system, for a season and a half. This past year, Casteel played for the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers.
After being a catcher throughout high school, college and the majority of his minor league career, the Mariners had moved him to first base while playing for their teams in Jackson (Tenn.) and Little Rock.
He went back behind the dish in Lancaster and responded with the fourth All-Star season of his pro career.
"I feel better catching than I did at first, and that's what the Braves have signed me as," commented the 27-year-old.
He was the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball's top-hitting catcher with a .321 batting average and a .383 on base percentage last season. Casteel had 117 hits in 104 games, with 20 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs. He drove in 70 runs and scored 51 times to help lead the Barnstormers to the ALPB playoffs.
Outside of last year's performance, Casteel has played in 626 Minor League Baseball games, collecting a .274 BA, .332 OBP, 64 HRs, 343 RBIs, 154 doubles and 14 triples in his 646 hits.
Along with playing for 11 minor league teams, he also help lead a team to the prestigious Arizona Fall League championship (2014), as well as being the Catcher of the Year in the California League (2013) and earning MVP and all-star honors in the Australian Baseball League that winter.
Casteel is the lone local pro player on an active minor league roster after Jake Wyrick decided to hang up his cleats and return to school to finish his degree. Hunter Oliver is currently on the Cincinnati Reds inactive/restricted list.
A 30th-round selection by the Reds in June, Wyrick went 1-1 in 14 games for Billings (Mont.) last summer in Rookie ball, posting a 6.20 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. The southpaw slinger struck out 29 batters and surrendered just 11 free passes in 24 2/3 innings on the bump.
Oliver was given a 50-game suspension by Minor League Baseball for a failed drug test in December.
He was the fourth player from the Reds organization who was suspended in 2018 for failing a drug test. Jake Ehret and Joel Bender both failed tests before the end of spring training. Montrell Marshall failed on during the season. Marshall has since retired.
Selected in the 21st round, the 20-year-old hit .256/.307/.440 with five doubles and six home runs in 32 hits while driving in 20 runs for the Greeneville Reds last summer. The catcher threw out 10 of the 60 attempted base runners in 33 games played behind the plate.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE