I don’t think it’s any secret we’ve been talking up the 2015 Red Sox for a while around here. It’s not so much that any of us are rooting for the Red Sox; it’s more that the numbers kept suggesting the Red Sox were in good shape, and we’re nothing if not loyal to the numbers. Our projected standings, based on the author-maintained depth charts, have long held that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender. Yet for so long, one thing was missing: a projection for Rusney Castillo.
It’s not that he wasn’t on the depth chart. It’s that he was previously projected for something like -0.2 WAR, which is to say, Steamer hadn’t yet bothered to work anything out. So our actual numbers were incomplete. Now, granted, -0.2 WAR might be a fine projection for Rusney Castillo, but that seems unlikely, based on his skills and based on the price he fetched from the Sox on the market. Anyway, I just want to let you know what someone else let me know this morning: Castillo’s got real numbers by his name, now. I don’t know precisely when this happened, but our Red Sox page features an official 2015 Castillo projection, and wouldn’t you know it, but it’s favorable.
The strongest clue that Castillo is a pretty good ballplayer is that the Red Sox gave him a seven-year contract worth $72.5 million. Contracts bust all the time, but MLB features 30 teams who all want to get better in the short-term and in the long-term. The organizations most invested in this game came together and created a market in which Castillo got three-quarters of a hundred million dollars. We don’t have much of a performance record. We have a few dozen plate appearances outside of Cuba, scouting reports, and contract terms.
What does Steamer, on its own, choose to believe? It sees a slightly below-average walk rate. It sees a strikeout rate in the vicinity of average. It also sees some power that’s average-plus, along with a better-than-average ability to turn balls in play into hits. Put it together and you get a 112 wRC+. Add at least adequate running and adequate fielding and you have a quality regular player. I think many of us have long been assuming Castillo to be at least average, and now we get to see those numbers show up in the team projections.
What did we learn, if anything, from Castillo’s brief big-league trial? He did smash a couple home runs, towering shots over the Monster, so there’s power there. He swung at pitches at a rate well above the average, making contact a normal amount of time. Of his 30 balls in play, 20 were grounders, so that might indicate something about his swing path. Alternatively, Castillo might not have done a good job of representing himself, after a whirlwind of a year, but all we can go on is what we have.
Based on the way Castillo was pitched by opponents, they were aggressive with fastballs and strikes. This frequently suggests a lack of concern regarding extra-base hits. But, it could be opponents were just trying to test Castillo’s bat speed. And a probably more obvious theory would be that opponents didn’t know how to pitch to him, either. He was new to the States. He never even played in the high minors.
Since signing and playing for Red Sox affiliates for the last month or so, Castillo has been showing a more controlled BP with opposite field pop and has been surprisingly solid at the plate. The expectations are something around average hit/power tools (.260 to .270 and 15-20 homers) but this is a volatile enough situation that both tools could be below average or above average in the short term (and the long-term, too). Castillo’s game swing is more line-drive and all fields oriented than the swing he uses to showcase his plus raw power, so it remains to be seen if he can find the best of both swings.
Dave, in the past, has suggested that Castillo sounds quite a lot like Shane Victorino. For fun, I took Castillo’s Steamer projection, and compared it to players from the past three years. Now, this concerns just offense, not performance overall. In terms of walks, strikeouts, and power, Castillo matches names like Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Allen Craig. That doesn’t take into account Craig’s apparent trajectory. A path like Victorino’s is within reach, but Victorino seems like more of a contact hitter, and Castillo seems like a more aggressive swinger. But. Who knows, you know?
Taking a step back, let’s just assume that Steamer isn’t wildly incorrect in its Castillo evaluation. Like, let’s assume that Castillo doesn’t completely suck. As I write this, the Red Sox now lead all of baseball in projected team WAR. They have a slight lead on the Nationals, and they have a substantial lead on the Mariners, who are projected at No. 2 in the American League. Just as importantly, look at how evenly those same Red Sox project:
They now look average or better at every position. They’re simultaneously super-deep and strong at the top, and having a Castillo projection completes the picture. As far as the playoffs would be concerned, the Red Sox could stand to add a higher-level starting pitcher, but for the regular season, they might well already be good enough. There’s no such thing as a collapse-proof team, but the Red Sox are trying to get as close as they can. It seems like it would take a lot to make them sink.
In closing, a poll. I don’t know why this should operate any differently from the Fan projections which we already have, but, I want to see where the community stands. What we have, for Rusney Castillo, is a 2015 Steamer projection. But, having a projection doesn’t mean we don’t still have an incredibly limited record. With so little to go on, Castillo is more difficult to project than the average young position player, so I’m curious to see where the votes are going to fall. I know that the categories are totally subjective, but I’m not worried about that. I don’t think you’re going to be torn between two options.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.