The Red Sox seemed to come out of nowhere over the last couple days to sign Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a 6 year, $72 million deal on Friday. The signing appears to be a continuation of a quick rebuild in Boston, after dealing Jon Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline for deals headlined by Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. But, this signing does create a logjam in the Red Sox outfield, specifically center field where they already have Jackie Bradley, Jr. and top prospect Mookie Betts.
Before getting into the logjam issue, which is probably a good thing for the Red Sox heading into the offseason, let's take a look at what we know about Castillo. What we know about Castillo is that he is a 28 year old outfield prospect who hasn't played in two years. We have heard this story time and again after the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig and the A's signed Yoenis Cespedes. The Red Sox stated earlier today that Castillo will head for a minor league assignment before seeing time on the major league roster.
To get an idea of his body type, here is Red Sox manager John Farrell via Gordon Edes piece on ESPN on Saturday:
"He's obviously a very strong-looking athlete. Maybe a little bit shorter version of [Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig]," Farrell said. "You get a similar proportion to that type of body. What that means performance-wise, we'll see. We're confident in the athleticism and the overall strength."
That doesn't mean he will hit like Puig, but there is a chance, I guess. For a more complete scouting report, here is ESPN's Keith Law, who hasn't seen Castillo play, but has had many conversations with scouts and front office types who have:
Castillo himself earns close to unanimous praise for two things: his speed and his body. He's at least a 70 runner, particularly once underway, and he's physically sculpted, with a body like that of a running back. He's both athletic and strong, showing plus power in BP sessions during his various workouts for clubs -- not Abreu/Puig-level power but still well above average.
Where the industry opinions start to diverge is on his bat. While I did talk to scouts who liked his bat speed, the consensus I heard was that he's more of a strength hitter than a bat-speed guy, and many scouts told me they felt his swing was long and he might be vulnerable inside.
Castillo runs well enough to play center field and has the arm to play either center or right; his ultimate position will depend on his instincts, which right now aren't center-field-ready but could get there with repetitions and coaching....... As long as he stays in the middle of the field, the bar for him to become an average everyday player isn't very high, and if he is indeed a low-OBP, high-power, high-strikeout hitter, he can still be a regular or more because of his potential to be a plus defender. American League center fielders (starters and backups) have hit .262/.326/.388 so far this year; if Castillo is a .250/.310/.425 hitter with good defense, he'll be worth the $12 million a year.
That projection, albeit a loose projection.....250-.310-.425 is right around or slightly above league average, doesn't tell us about Castillo's main fantasy skill.....stolen bases. I have read some who project him to be a 30 stolen base hitter, so if he can hit 10-15 home runs with that kind of speed, he will have plenty of fantasy value on draft day 2015.
With that said, we still really don't know what kind of hitter he will actually be until he sees some big league pitching, which is scheduled to be in September, per Ian Browne at MLB.com:
Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed before Saturday's game that Castillo is likely to play some games for a Minor League affiliate before coming to the Majors at some point in September, when rosters are expanded.
Until then, we can only rely on the few minor league games he will play, and, at this point, we don't know at what level he will begin his major league career. He is scheduled to report to Fort Myers, FLA to get into baseball shape, so that could take a few weeks.
The signing does create a logjam in center field for the Red Sox, with Bradley and Betts having already played there with the big club this season. Bradley was recently demoted to AAA to work on his swing, and now appears to be nothing more than a 4th outfielder type or a candidate for a change of scenery. Betts can play all over the infield, so he has a better chance to stick with the big league club in 2015, unless the Red Sox look to deal some of their crop of prospects for a front line starting pitcher. There have been reports that the Phillies have heavily scouted the Red Sox farm system, so Cole Hamels could be on his way north in the offseason.
With the signing, the Red Sox lineup heading into 2015 looks pretty good on paper:
C - Christian Vasquez
1B - Mike Napoli
2B - Dustin Pedroia
SS - Xander Bogaerts
3B - Brock Holt/Will Middlebrooks
LF - Yoenis Cespedes
CF - Rusney Castillo
RF - Allen Craig
There is also the chance that the Red Sox attempt to deal for Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but that might involve them having to deal a package headlined by Bogaerts. I doubt they would deal Bogaerts, but I don't see the Marlins taking a package of prospects for Stanton. The Marlins GM has already been quoted as saying that if they eventually do deal Stanton, the deal would not be highlighted by prospects, but by controllable major league talent.
This signing sets the Red Sox up for an active and interesting offseason that actually could result in Jon Lester resigning with the club. I think Lester has moved on, but you never know.
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