The Boston Red Sox’s roster overhaul continues.
The Red Sox, fresh off adding outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig before the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. While it’s unclear at this point how the Red Sox plan to deploy their sudden surplus of outfielders in 2015, the club certainly added another dynamic talent in Castillo.
Castillo’s biggest asset is his speed. Baseball America’s Ben Badler described Castillo as having “premium wheels,” which will add a whole new dimension to a Red Sox offense that lost Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees in free agency last offseason.
The Red Sox’s baserunning prowess hasn’t been the same in 2014 with Ellsbury gone and Shane Victorino limited to just 21 games. The Red Sox only have 39 stolen bases on 60 attempts this season, a 28th-ranked 65 percent success rate. By comparison, Boston swiped 123 bases on 144 attempts (85.4 percent) in 2013, the best mark in MLB. Castillo certainly addresses an area of concern.
Castillo’s speed also should help ease his defensive transition to MLB, where he’s expected to play center field, as it will allow him to track down fly balls in the gap. There are questions about Castillo’s arm strength, but center field is a position where range, closing speed and the ability to read balls well off the bat are paramount. By many accounts, including Badler’s, Castillo possesses the ability to be an above-average major league center fielder, which, coupled with his offensive prowess, could give the Red Sox an extremely valuable weapon.
Perhaps the biggest question — not necessarily a concern — involves Castillo’s offense and what exactly he’ll provide in the power department. Anyone enamored with the pop displayed by fellow Cuban defectors Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu should take it down a notch because Castillo isn’t that type of player. But, as Badler notes, Castillo put on 20 pounds before arriving at his Miami showcase last month — he’s now 5-foor-9, 205 pounds — and “it’s not going to his waist.” Names like Victorino, Brett Gardner and Rajai Davis have been tossed around in player comparisons, so if you dump them all into some crazy evaluation machine, perhaps 15-20 home runs isn’t unreasonable if Castillo’s pop — reportedly displayed at the aforementioned showcase — translates in the majors.
Castillo can hit the ball with authority. It’s worth noting, however, that Castillo, a right-handed hitter, is viewed as more of a line drive producer. That could limit his home run totals playing 81 games a year at Fenway Park, where one must elevate the baseball to drive it out of the yard to left field. Think doubles galore, which, hey, the Red Sox can live with given the anemic state of the current offense.
The Victorino comparison might be the best one in terms of trying to pinpoint Castillo’s ceiling, it coincides perfectly with how the Cuban’s tools have been described. In a nutshell, Castillo is considered a solid defender — capable of playing center field or a corner outfield spot — with great speed and a propensity for impacting the baseball, even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into a home run barrage.
Victorino, who remains under contract with Boston for 2015, has averaged 14 homers, 64 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and a .771 OPS per 162 games over the course of his 11-year major league career. If the Red Sox receive comparable contributions from Castillo, they will have netted good value for what ultimately amounts to roughly $12 million per year.
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