Five years since turning professional out of Kailua High School, Joey Cantillo remains determined to climb the minor league ladder en route to the show.

Cantillo, who signed with the San Diego Padres after getting selected in the 16th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, was traded to Cleveland prior to the 2020 MLB trade deadline.

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Since the start of his pro career, Cantillo has climbed nearly every step of the organizational ladder, starting off with the AZL Padres in 2017. Cantillo has pitched for the Akron RubberDucks, the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, since the 2021 season.

Cantillo’s career statistics in the minor leagues paint a picture of a consistent pitcher who doesn’t give up many runs (2.41 ERA) while racking up strikeouts (12.15 per nine innings) throughout the duration of his starts. His 2022 season is his best yet, where he’s struck out 83 batters in 57.2 innings, going 4-3 with a career-low 2.03 ERA. In May, he earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Month after going 2-0 in five appearances (four starts) with 33 strikeouts in 22 innings, giving up just 10 hits and four walks for a WHIP of 0.64.

Cantillo’s performance in 2022 has earned him a spot back in Cleveland’s Top 30 prospect rankings. He last pitched on June 29, where he struck out nine in 4.2 innings of work and is currently on an extended break. According to Akron manager Rouglas Odor, the break is not related to injury and is targeted towards giving Cantillo extra rest. Cantillo pitched just 13 innings in 2021 due to an abdominal injury.

“I do feel really good right now. I think overall this first half of the season has been a solid one for me,” Cantillo told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I’m always going to say that there are things that I could be doing better but I think it’s just been good for me that I’ve taken what I’ve learned last year and missing all that time last year, last year was a tough year for me. A long one dealing with injuries and all the things that go along with that, so it’s been really fun this year.

“We have a really good team and a really good staff with a lot of good pitchers, but yeah, I think I’ve been confident in myself and my stuff has been even better than it was before and with that, as long as I’m throwing strikes, I’m feeling really good.”

With a plus changeup and fastball that has gone up to 95 miles per hour this season, Cantillo believes he has the stuff and the stats to warrant a move up in the organization.

“You got to put forth good months and just do certain things to get promoted. Me moving up isn’t really in my control but me limiting my walks or me trying to strike out some more guys, like I told a lot of people, I want to pitch in the big leagues this year but you have to step back and say it’s one day at a time,” Cantillo said. “What can I be doing while I’m here at Double-A? There’s still a lot of things I can be working on. Things that I’m going to learn here on a day-to-day basis is going to carry me to that level.”