Last August when when of the top Cuban defectors became available on the free agency market, teams pounced on the opportunity to sign center fielder Rusney Castillo. He showed off the raw tools that scouts drool over— power, speed and bat speed. Without ever playing in a big league game, Castillo got the Boston Red Sox to shell out $72.5 million in order to obtain his services for seven seasons (including 2014).
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Already playing in ten big league games, Castillo hit .333 for Boston, but for many it is still unclear what type of a player he will be when the sample size increases.
Former Boston Red Sox utility man and 2007 World Series champion Alex Cora, who coached Rusney Castillo in the Puerto Rican Winter League, has nothing but high praise for the Cuban defector.
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“I don’t think he’s a middle of the order guy,” Alex Cora told NESN. “I think he’s going to be a game-changer at the top of the lineup, or one of those guys that can hit seventh and pick up the slack with whoever is up there running the bases, he can drive them in.”
In the Puerto Rican Winter League, Castillo impressed all when he hit .407 in 37 at-bats with a homer and two steals. Although the sample size is limited, he has impressed everywhere fans outside of Cuba have been able to see him play.
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While it appears as though speed might just be his biggest, it might take him awhile to get used to stealing bases because he has not played against much live competition in the past few years.
Giving Castillo high praise is FanGraphs whose Steamer projections project that he hits .262 in 122 games with 12 home runs and 15 stolen bases for the Red Sox this year. The Fans prediction on the site shows him hitting 16 homes in 137 games with 26 stolen bases while hitting .278 and posting an impressive .339 OBP.
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If either of those are accurate, he will be a major contributor to the Red Sox next season.