Can Someone Please Call Me Up Already?
Is he a prospect? No. Is he a rookie? Technically, but not really. Regardless, Rusney Castillo is the latest international player creating a buzz around the league.
Last week, Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, the largest contract ever given to an international amateur. After the success of recent defectors Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, Boston clearly is looking to cash in on the newest Cuban sensation.
Boston’s front office is also hopeful that Castillo will be able to get into games before the season is over, which has piqued the interest of some fantasy owners. The 27-year-old will likely get some playing time, but is he worth a roster spot on your 2014 team?
Making the Case for this Top MLB Prospect
First off, Castillo deserves all the hype behind him. In his last full season in Cuba, Castillo hit .342 and slugged .574 in 113 games, stealing 27 bases with a .408 on-base percentage, driving in 84 runs and scoring 101 times. In addition, he topped the league with 37 doubles. Now, obviously there is a difference between Cuban and MLB pitching, but Castillo has the scouting report that makes the Sox ready to let him loose. The following is from Baseball America’s Ben Badler:
“…Good speed and defense in center field, a line-drive stroke, an aggressive hitting approach and occasional power. The biggest difference was in Castillo’s power. Castillo showed more juice in his bat than he had before he left Cuba. Castillo always had good bat speed and could sting the ball with a line-drive approach in Cuba, but (during BP) he hit balls out to all fields, displaying plus raw power. 'In BP he had some length in his swing, so there was pretty good loft power,' one scout said. 'Then in games he shortened up his stroke and we saw the line-drive swing that we saw in the past. But he is a lot more physical than what we saw in his Cuban national days.'”
So Castillo has shown he can be a very versatile hitter at the major league level. There is a bit of concern as to what kind of player he could be, however. He has drawn comparisons to everybody from Yasiel Puig to Rajai Davis, who are pretty far apart in terms of skill sets. I certainly don't agree with that Davis comp-- even though Davis is having a good year, he’s an average player with almost no power, a skill Castillo does possess.
Rusney Castillo Season Outlook
One problem for Castillo is that he hasn’t played baseball in a year and a half. He was suspended by the Cuban National team before the 2013 World Baseball Classic for trying to defect. So for the immediate time being, he is going to have to shake the cobwebs off before he truly gets back to where his production left off.
Another issue is that when he does make it up to the big-league club, it will be after the September roster expansions, which means that Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts and Brock Holt will all be available to play the outfield and take at-bats away from Castillo. With all of these names also signed on for 2015, and with the inclusion of Shane Victorino next season, Castillo is going to really need to stand out in order to play close to every day.
Rusney Castillo’s future is 100% in his hands. Whether he has the ability to live up to such a monumental contract for an international player will be determined when he makes his debut in the coming weeks, but the story will be told over the next few years. With such depth already in Boston’s OF, he will be not be given tons of leeway, and overall it might render him pretty much irrelevant for fantasy owners in 2014, unless he comes out of the gate extremely hot.