There will be no shortage of pressure when Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo joins Major League Baseball.
Castillo, who reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox on Friday, will look to become the latest Cuban phenom to take the league by storm, perhaps as early as this season. While no one knows exactly what to expect, the 27-year-old has garnered praise from a couple of fellow countrymen.
“I don’t know him all that well. We overlapped for about two years, playing in Cuba, so I was able to see him play a good amount,” Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who could soon become Castillo’s teammate in Boston, told ESPN.com earlier this week. “As far as impact here, or how he would be here, I can only speak to what he was in Cuba, and in Cuba I would’ve put him at the same level as (Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig), and look at what Puig’s done here. So that could materialize, it could not, but that’s what I see so far.”
Comparing Castillo to Puig probably is unfair. Puig burst onto the scene in 2013, hitting .319 with 19 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .925 OPS in 104 regular-season games before earning a National League All-Star selection this season. Castillo, while talented, doesn’t boast the same skill set, as his game is more centered on speed and line drive ability than Herculean power.
But the Puig comparison certainly speaks to Castillo’s overall talent. It’s why the Red Sox reportedly are willing to make such a sizable financial commitment. And though we’ll have to wait and see whether Castillo’s skills translate to MLB, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who is having a tremendous first season in the bigs after signing a six-year, $68 million contract, is excited to see what the future holds.
“I’m very happy for him and I think Cuba’s pretty happy for him,” Areu told the New York Post on Friday. “We played together when we were growing up and coming up for the national team. He’s a guy that has a lot of tools.”
It’s almost time to put those tools to work. Some lofty expectations lie ahead.
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