Interesting stuff from Shi Davidi in his latest from Sportsnet, as he looks at the “interesting opportunity” that Cuban defector Rusney Castillo might present for the Blue Jays, as the “close to big-league-ready” 27-year-old gets ready for a showcase in Miami for interested clubs at the end of this month.
Shi explains why Castillo — who Ben Badler of Baseball America says is viewed by some scouts as an everyday centre fielder, while others see him as a fourth OF — could fit into the Jays’ long-term outfield situation:
The Blue Jays are sure to attend the event, even if only for information purposes, and they’re going to need outfielders next season.
Centre-fielder Colby Rasmus and left-fielder Melky Cabrera are both eligible for free agency, leaving Jose Bautista as the only starting outfielder under club control for 2015.
New addition Nolan Reimold has a year of arbitration remaining before free agency while farmhands Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar are the only real alternatives in the system.
Prospect Dalton Pompey has made significant gains this season but his arrival isn’t expected before late 2015, at the earliest.
That’s about the size of it. And though I advised not blowing it out of proportion, Jeff Blair did write at Sportsnet on Monday that “given the state of the market and everything we’re led to believe from the Blue Jays brass, neither Melky Cabrera nor Colby Rasmus will be back.” In other words, as should be totally obvious and not mind-bending, with $96.2-million already committed for next season — before arbitration raises and dollars needing to be committed to re-sign, replace, or pick up options on Rasmus, Cabrera, Lind, Happ, Janssen, Santos, McGowan, Thole, and maybe even Morrow — it’s going to be awfully hard for a team that needed to ask for players to make deferrals in order to free enough budget to sign Ervin Santana to compete on the open market for the services of their two outfielders. Shit, as we mentioned on this week’s podcast, at this point it’s not entirely unreasonable to think it could even be tough for the Jays to make qualifying offers to them, out of fear that they might take them!
Enter a guy like Castillo, who in a previous piece at Baseball America, Badler said isn’t expected to be the kind of impact guy we’ve seen out of Cuba in Jose Abreu or Yoenis Cespedes, but is well regarded by many — and regarded enough to be represented by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency.
At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Castillo has good strength for his relatively short stature and is an athletic player whose best tool is his plus-plus speed. He was one of the better base stealers in Cuba, going 22-for-29 in steals in 2011-12 to rank third in the league in stolen bases, one year after leading the league with 29 bags in 35 attempts.
Castillo can sting the ball from the right side of the plate, projecting as a line-drive bat who hits a lot of doubles and triples rather than home runs. He’s an aggressive hitter with good bat speed, though his swing can get long at times and he will expand his strike zone.
. . .
In his final season in Cuba playing for Ciego De Avila in 2012-13, Castillo hit just .250/.352/.342 in 43 games. It was an uncharacteristically poor season for Castillo, who in 2011-12 hit .332/.395/.545 in 420 plate appearances with 16 home runs, 32 walks, 42 strikeouts and a league-leading 28 doubles.
Obviously Cuban stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, but that sounds pretty OK. Y’know, as long as the price is right — and presumably it will at least be better than what Cabrera and Rasmus will command, for a player I’d certainly be more willing to bet on than an Anthony Gose (who, I might remind you, has slashed .233/.316/.302 between Triple-A and the Majors this year, with better numbers at the big league level!) or Kevin Pillar.
I mean… I don’t think we need to get ourselves worked up about this — according to MLBTR, months ago, when Castillo’s paperwork was being signed, the Orioles and Dodgers were rumoured to be interested, plus we all know that the Jays budget is pretty tight as it is — but it’s certainly an option, and one of the kind it looks like the Jays will have to explore for next season. And give the fact that Castillo “is expected to sign fairly soon after his showcase, making him a potential impact player down the stretch if he signs with a contending club,” there’s all the more reason for them to be interested.
Image via @rusneycastillo.