The Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball announced the signing of right-hander Anderson Espinoza this week. Orix also signed righty Luis Castillo for the 28-year-old’s second season in Japan.
Espinoza is the more well-known of the two former big leaguers. That’s largely on account of his prospect status. At one time regarded among the top minor league pitching talents, Espinoza was dealt from the Red Sox to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz at the 2016 deadline. Unfortunately, the 6’0″ righty was then beset by myriad injuries.
Elbow soreness was a precursor to Tommy John surgery in 2017. He spent two years rehabbing only to have a setback that required a second TJS. Between the surgeries and the canceled minor league season in 2020, Espinoza didn’t throw a single minor league pitch over four years.
San Diego traded him to the Cubs for veteran outfielder Jake Marisnick during the 2021 campaign. He reached the big leagues in Chicago, tossing 18 2/3 innings over seven relief outings. Espinoza turned in a 5.40 ERA in that limited time and was outrighted from the 40-man roster at year’s end.
He signed a minor league pact to return to the Padres a year ago. The 25-year-old had a full season from the rotation with Triple-A El Paso but struggled to a 6.15 ERA through 131 2/3 frames. He fanned a below-average 19% of opponents while issuing walks at a lofty 12% clip. The Friars opted against calling him back to the majors, setting the stage for his first trip to Japan.
Castillo, the lesser-known righty by that name, reached the majors for three relief outings with the Tigers in 2022. After a decade in the minors, he made the jump to NPB a year ago with the Chiba Lotte Marines. Castillo split his time almost evenly between the Marines and their minor league club. At the NPB level, he posted a 3.12 ERA over 49 frames. His 17% strikeout rate was modest but he showed impeccable control, only walking 1.5% of opposing hitters.