clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Red Sox need Rusney Castillo to succeed

Without a lot of organization outfield depth, a lot of the Red Sox's potential offensive success hinges on the performance of Rusney Castillo.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Five years and $60.357 million. That's the total left on Rusney Castillo's contract which, after a lackluster 2015 season, certainly looks like an albatross of sorts. Not to the scale of Hanley Ramirez, but it's still a lot of money and time commitment to a 28-year-old outfielder who has yet to truly prove he can play at the major league level on a daily basis.

It's not as if Castillo has not shown anything yet in Boston; the flashes of the ability many scouts raved about surfaced at multiple points last year. The pure arm strength is up there with just about anyone in the major leagues and Castillo can certainly drive a baseball a mile and the speed surfaces in the outfield and on the basepaths.

Castillo's weaknesses, however, have overpowered the positive signs over the course of the first season and a quarter for Boston. Castillo is incredibly aggressive at the plate, which helped lead to his poor performance against right-handed pitchers, whom he hit .233/.266/.324 off of in his careers. That performance drastically contrasts against Castillo's numbers against lefties, against whom he has hit .322/.355/.471. On top of all of that, Castillo never really put up eye-catching numbers (.282/.337/.385) during his time in Triple-A against talent that was, presumably, beneath that of his own coming in as a more polished, older Cuban prospect. On top of all of that, minor injuries plagued Castillo during last season.

Just looking at the numbers, however, ignores the fact that baseball is a game played by actual people and not athletic cyborgs. Castillo began his first full year living in the United States, a transition that is not easy on anyone. Writing off Castillo after just one lackluster year at the major league level would be a major mistake. It would, however, also be a mistake to also think that Castillo is going to come in next year and light the world on fire at the plate because nothing we've seen at the major league level suggests that he can do that on a daily basis.

When considering the addition of Chris Young to the Red Sox outfield corps, Castillo is as big, if not a bigger, wild card as Jackie Bradley. While Castillo brings really good, if underrated, defense to the table, his inability to hit righties so far at the major league level is not encouraging. The lefty-righty splits at the minor league level are not as dramatic (.298/.382/.489 vs. LHP, .275/.316/.339 vs. RHP) as the ones at the major league, but clearly demonstrate that Castillo clearly performs better against southpaws. If anything, the strong glove will give John Farrell more of a reason to give Castillo a chance to find his way at the plate at the major league level.

There's not many positive takeaways from Castillo's performance last year, especially when considering the contract. Castillo hit ground balls at a rate of 63.5 percent, which is absurdly high, but the average BABIP of .299 certainly raises an eyebrow; despite hitting a ton of balls in the infield, Castillo's BABIP averaged out with the rest of the league, which can rule out luck, or lack thereof, when evaluating Castillo's performance. The lack of line drives for Castillo is particularly concerning given the position that he plays and the expectations of power that come with the position inherently. The lack of power certainly contrasts with the scouting breakdown of Castillo prior to him signing with the Red Sox.

There really isn't much positive to take away from Castillo's 2015 when taking a look at the numbers; a lot of the hope that remains around him stems from the fact that he is a pure physical specimen who, at the very league, looks the part of a productive major leaguer. The raw abilities certainly manifest themselves from time to time, but the production was not consistent enough last season to label Castillo as a player you can depend on out of the gate.

Castillo's success holds major ramifications for the Red Sox next seasons; Chris Young is a very good major league outfielder, but he's not an everyday starter at this point in his career when considering his dramatic splits. The questions that surround Bradley certainly affect Castillo as well; while logically Young seems to be Bradley's compliment at the plate, Castillo does not necessarily have the same "luxury" as another right-handed hitter. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski goes into the season with Mookie Betts as the only (relatively) sure bet in terms of production from his outfield with Bradley and Castillo as major question marks.

There's a decent chance that one of the other will struggle to live up to the performance expectations of a starting outfielder at the major league outfielder, but if both players struggle to produce at the plate, Dombrowski does not really have a lot of options in house to fix the solution. In a lineup where there are already questions with major players such as Ramirez and Sandoval, the Red Sox really cannot afford to have black holes of production from two-thirds of their outfielders. Brock Holt is not a full-time outfielder and the best in-house option from the farm system is probably Andrew Benintendi, who will likely not be major league ready in the early parts of the 2016 season.

For the Red Sox next season, a lot of the team's potential success offensively hinges on whether or not Castillo can fulfill three-quarters of the promise and raw ability he brings to the field. Dombrowski at multiple points this offseason has backed Bradley and Castillo and touted their abilities to be starters at the major league level. Given the team's current offensive outlook and organization outfield, Dombrowski is placing a lot of weight on the potential success Castillo brings to a lineup. The Red Sox don't necessarily need Castillo to be a superstar next year at the plate, but the team certainly can't afford for him to be an inconsistent hitter who struggles to put together a good at-bat against a righty.