Is Rusney Castillo the Next Cuban Phenom in Major League Baseball?

A true centerfielder

After the recent Cuban defectors have represented well in Major League Baseball, the price tag has been driven up for the signing of Cuban defectors who follow Cespedes, Puig, Abreu and others.  With centerfield defense combined with strong offensive production at the Major League level coming at a premium, a player like Rusney Castillo commands as much or more money on his contract, than some of the superstars that have arrived before him.  At age 27, Rusney Castillo is fully developed as a professional baseball player in the Cuban National Series, which makes him a more attractive free agent since teams contending for his rights believe him to be a somewhat proven as a professional baseball player.  While Castillo is unlikely to show off all the same attributes that have allowed players like Cespedes, Puig and Abreu to take the league by storm, he does possess the talent to be an extremely valuable player to a team like the Red Sox that has aspirations of being a playoff contender next season.  With this in mind, a look at the value the Red Sox are getting with Castillo will help to determine where the market has gone for Cuban defectors looking to sign with Major League teams.

Six years and 72 million dollars

After signing Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox plan on getting him into action in the final 35 games of the season, which gives the Red Sox the rights to the Cuban centerfield for six years and parts of a seventh.  For the Major League service time in 2014, Castillo is expected to earn Major League minimum, but over the duration of the contract he is expected to earn an average annual salary that exceeds what Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig are earning on their current contracts.  With neither of those players being everyday centerfielders for their current teams though, the value for what Castillo provides to the Red Sox, is more than a corner outfield regular provides.  The level of play that it takes to become a star as a centerfielder in Major League Baseball is a different standard than what is set as the expectations for a star corner outfielder, so with the tools that Castillo possesses, he could become a star for the Red Sox.  For Castillo, he did very well in the contract negotiations that ultimately got him 72 million dollars over six seasons, because of the stars who came before him and represented Cuban baseball so well.

Can Castillo be an offensive star?

The best way for Rusney Castillo to become an offensive star for the Red Sox would be for him to be a fixture at the top of the Red Sox order throughout the duration of his contract.  As a 27-year-old baseball player, Castillo should be a player that has the veteran ability to make adjustments from game to game in the seasons that he plays in Boston.  In order to be a star at the top of the order, Castillo will need to hit the occasional homerun that ignites his team to start a ballgame, and he will need to be a player that gets on base.  Castillo could add to his stardom by living up to his reputation in the Cuban league as a base stealer, and stealing 40 bases a season in the American League.  Since Castillo already has a strong approach at the plate that helps him to produce line drives to all fields, the Red Sox expect that he will hit for them at the top of the order, but it remains to be seen how often he can get on base via the walk.  Like Puig and Cespedes before him, Castillo is a player that will chase pitches out of the strike zone often enough to create a hole in his swing against low and away breaking pitches.  What will allow Castillo to be an offensive star, would be aggressive approach where he is able to stay back enough to use the whole field along with staying off low off-speed pitches.

Conclusion

Ultimately the tools that Rusney Castillo possess could allow him to be a star in the Major Leagues if he does not try to do too much and just goes out and plays his game.  He is not going to be able to produce at the level that Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen have found consistently over the past few seasons, but he can be one of the better everyday centerfielders in the game.  With the defense that Castillo has put on display, he will likely be a very good defender for the Red Sox in a big centerfield at Fenway Park, and he can make up for his arm strength by getting a good jump on base hits to centerfield with his great speed.  The speed aspect of Castillo’s game will probably be the deciding factor in whether or not he is able to perform like a star at the Major League level because it adds to his defense, base-running and batting average by allowing him to beat out an above average number of infield hits.  The Red Sox contract offer to Castillo has now set a new precedent for contracts given to Cuban stars, and it shows the emphasis that teams are putting on the centerfield position both offensively and defensively.

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