Rusney Castillo Is Making His Case for Outfield Spot Heard

RUSNEY CASTILLO

Rusney Castillo, an international free-agent the Red Sox inked to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract last August, is making Boston’s decision on which outfielders will start the season in the majors very difficult.

Castillo launched a 10th inning pitch from Minnesota’s Jake Reed over the left-field wall on Thursday at JetBlue Park, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead and the victory. In six Spring Rusney CastilloTraining starts thus far, the 27-year old Cuba native is hitting .235/.235/.706 with two home-runs, a triple and four runs batted in.

Despite missing two weeks of Spring Training with a left oblique injury, Castillo has wasted very little time showing that he is in-game condition.

“It’s definitely gratifying, especially given I came up a little short in the previous at-bat with the bases loaded,” Castillo shared with MLB.com’s Ian Browne, using his interpreter Adrian Lorenzo. “It was nice to kind of pick up my team and be able to have that at-bat be a home run, especially to decide the game.”

“I’ve always enjoyed those moments because it’s a time when the fans are expecting you to decide the game,” Castillo said in Spanish in an interview with USA TODAY. “I like being in those situations and I try to focus in those at-bats.”

Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts seem like locks to start the season in the outfield, which leaves Castillo, Allen Craig, and Shane Victorino vying for the starting right fielder position. Castillo has the most minor league options out of those three candidates, so it seems as though the easiest move would be to start him in AAA to begin the season.

“I don’t worry too much about it. I just look ahead and train to get ready,” Castillo told USA TODAY. “When you’re at [AAA], the next step is the big leagues, and the season is very similar to the majors. I try to focus on doing my job wherever I am.”

However, Craig and Victorino have both shown an inability to stay healthy the last couple of seasons, playing in only 156 games combined in 2014.

Castillo, on the other hand, has performed well at every level since signing with the Red Sox, and seemingly has a much higher offensive and defensive ceiling than either Craig or Victorino.

In 11 minor league games between A and AAA in 2014, Castillo hit .293 with five extra-base hits, five runs batted in, seven runs scored, five walks and two stolen bases. He followed that up with an impressive major league debut, hitting .333/.400/.528 with two home runs, six RBI and three steals in 10 games with the big league club.

Although it seems like the easiest choice would be to let Castillo begin the season in AAA, he has made a strong case as to why he should start the 2015 season in Fenway Park as the starting right fielder. With Boston facing many questions regarding their pitching rotation and bullpen, the Red Sox should look to the slugging Castillo if they want to put their best possible lineup on the field.

Red Sox Win Rusney Castillo Sweepstakes

Rusney Castillo The Red Sox yesterday made a huge splash when they signed free agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. Rusney is Cuban for “Built like a fullback, runs like a tailback, hits like an All-Star.” When the deal was finalized by Sox brass and Jay Z’s people, the terms were seven years at $72,500,000. This is the largest deal ever for a free-agent amateur, and is just below the deal that the Chicago White Sox signed fellow Cuban Jose Abreu last winter (six years at $68,000,000.)

The Sox now have gone from having their weakest hitting outfield in 50 years to two legitimate deep threats with Yoenis Cespedes in left and Castillo flanking him. It is expected that Castillo will be in the Fenway outfield very soon, as the Red Sox desperately need to feed their fans some hope for next year.

Listed at 5’9” and 205 pounds, he has added twenty pounds of muscle within the past year. He has above average speed, a better than average arm, and can play center or right fields. He also played second base in Cuba.   As far as his style, there are comparisons ranging from Andrew McCutchen to Yasiel Puig to Jacoby Ellsbury former MLBer Ron Gant.

Castillo hasn’t played a pro game in over 12 months, having left Cuba and establishing residency in Haiti. He has never hit MLB pitching, and his debut may be the most watched at bat in recent Red Sox history.

Stay tuned Red Sox Nation!

The Red Sox and Jon Lester: What’s the Deal?

Jon Lester

On the eve of Spring Training, Jon Lester, the Sox best starter and post-season hero, announced that he’d like to stay with the Red Sox when his current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. Surprisingly and happily (for the Red Sox) he said he’d even take a hometown discount to stay.

So, how did the Sox react? “Refreshing,” they opined. That’s it?

It’s been almost a month since Lester spoke out publicly and it’s less than two weeks before Opening Day. Lester will be on the hill for the Red Sox by the way. And not a single word in the mainstream media on any contract negotiations. Why not? This is either being kept a secret on a scale of the Invasion of Normandy or the Sox are guilty of malfeasance by not trying to re-sign Lester for the long-term—and soon—particularly, after his stated desire to be a life-long Red Sox

The argument for keeping Lester on his pitching merits is almost ironclad. Consider: He’s just 30 years old and he’s never even had a hint of arm trouble. In 5 of the last 6 years (the hideous Bobby Valentine 2012 excluded), Lester has had a minimum of 15 wins and averaged 205 innings pitched. Lester is also a monstrously good (great!) big game pitcher. He has 6 post season victories for the Red Sox with an ERA of 2.11 in the playoffs and World Series. And he’s done this in the most difficult environment in all of baseball—Boston, where every game is the War of the Roses.

Who else can claim the same and what would the cost be?

I am not saying that Lester should get Clayton Kershaw money (7 years, $25 million) but when the comparatively mediocre Homer Bailey was recently resigned by the Reds at 6 years and $105M, alarm bells should have gone off on Yawkey Way. Not to mention the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, who just signed a 7 year, $155M deal without having pitched a single inning in the big leagues. The simple fact of the matter is that starting pitching salaries always go up. Great ones, even just good ones, are worth their weight in gold.

After the 2014 season, the Tiger’s Max Scherzer and likely David Price of the Rays will both be on the Free Agent market. Their salaries will be astronomical. Should he make it to free agency, Lester will almost certainly make a ton of money if for no reason other than the “a rising tide raises all boats” theory. And it will likely be a lot more than he’d ask the Red Sox for right now.

It’s obvious and understandable that the Sox are very optimistic about the cadre of strong-armed starting pitching potential they’ve accumulated in the minor leagues. Webster. Renaudo. Barnes. Owens.

But asking them to step in and be major league pitchers from the get-go is like whistling past the graveyard, and certainly not Jon Lester-like effective.

From my perch, if Lester has said he’s ready and willing, the Red Sox should vote with their pocketbooks—before Opening Day.

Yoan Aybar, the 16 year old Outfielder, Signed Monday

Yoan Aybar

(AP Photo)

News in! The Red Sox have signed a 16 (barely 16) year old left-handed rookie, Yoan Aybar, Monday, July 8. A center fielder who has great potential when it comes to power behind the plate and arm strength (although needs improvement), Aybar fits the description of the kind of athlete the Red Sox are looking for in years to come.

The 6-foot-2, 165 lb. Dominican has promising attributes that struck a chord Monday. He has ‘raw’ talent that, if worked on continuously, could prove unequivocal results in the future.  His salary: $450,000!  Clearly enough to hold a 16 year old down, but not nearly as much as most international free agents sign for.

There isn’t a lot to know about Yoan Aybar yet, but I suspect, because of how young he is and how much talent he has been portrayed to have, it won’t be long until he’s all over the media. As the days progress, we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for the 16 year old free agent and what’s in store for the Red Sox in continuing years.

Rumor Has It

rumor

Who wants a free-agent-to-be catcher that doesn’t hit or field well?
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

From tuning into all of the games and watching Jarrod Saltalamacchia at bat so far this season, I have only been impressed. Only maybe I don’t know the game as good as I should, or maybe I am blind to see the writing between the lines when it comes to what to look for in a star player. In any case, rumor has it, Jarrod is not playing the way the organization would like him to.  This leaves room for debate on whether he should be traded after the 2013 season or not. After all, he is a free agent when the 2013 season ends and his performance at present isn’t cutting it with the 4.5 million dollar contract he has signed on to.  Ben Cherington, before the offseason even began, emphasized (rumor has it) he wanted Salty out, but who would replace him? Ryan Lavarnway? The 25 year old up and coming star athlete has a lot to improve, but with a .172 BA who has thrown out 13% of runners on base in his 63 MLB game career, in the past two years, is a candidate for the Boston Red Sox in 2014.  There is also David Ross, but his age may catch up with his performance. At 36 how much more can Ross put out behind the plate?  Although he has an .818 OPS and has thrown out 30% of runners on base in the past nine games, would he be a good candidate to replace Salty full time? Again, this is just a rumor as of right now, but one worth investigating.

It would be a hard hit for me if Salty left the Boston Red Sox.  I know his stats prove otherwise – in twenty games he is hitting .232 with three homeruns, eight RBI’s, and twenty seven strike outs, in only sixty-nine at bats. As a catcher, defensively, he struggles too, with or without the umpire being in the way. So far he has allowed twelve stolen bases without throwing out any of the runners.

The game was a grave disappointment Saturday night as the Sox took on the Texas Rangers, and Salty was of no assistance offensively.  In his three at-bats he fanned twice, once leaving two men on base, and hit a double line drive to right field.

The question stands, is this truly a rumor or will we be seeing a new starting catcher as 2014 draws near?

Ellsbury Gone After this Season?

ellsbury

Courtesy of nationalsamrace.com

The ladies love him, but how much longer will Ells be strutting his stuff in center field? This is his final year under contract with the Sox and plenty of other teams would love to have him.  The Sox would likely offer him a pay cut, something a Scott Boras client is not inclined to do (Varitek is the one exception).  This would have fans worried if it weren’t for touted prospect Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley has been playing like Jackie Robinson in spring training. His numbers are off the charts, but the batting average really stands out at .517.  Manager John Farrell has said anything is possible for Bradley Jr. this season, but he would benefit most from playing every day in Pawtucket.  It remains to be see what happens this year.  But having Bradley Jr. suddenly makes Ellsbury expendable.  In the past the Sox considered Ellsbury untouchable, nixing trades once his name came up. That no longer seems like the case.

No one should expect Ellsbury back next season; he’s made it clear that his concentration is on 2013 not beyond that.  That’s typical of a soon to be free agent looking to test the market.  But while most teams would fret about losing their stud center fielder, most teams don’t have a stud in waiting like Bradley Jr.