The Red Sox continued their recent run of asset collection, signing Cuban OF Rusney Castillo to a 7-year, $72.5 million deal yesterday. You can Google around the internet and find a reasonably accurate scouting report, or a grainy, old video from his days playing in Cuba and Dave did a good job breaking down what the value/expectations are for what we understand Castillo to be as a player. I didn’t want to collect all this existing information and give you a long post to skim, so I’ll share scouting grades I got from a number of scouts that have seen him, and some explanation of what that means for Castillo’s projection.
Hit: 40/50, Game Power: 45/50, Raw Power: 55/55, Speed: 70/70, Field: 50/60, Throw: 50/50
(See the primer for the org rankings if you aren’t familiar with the 20-80 scouting scale, though I explain some of it below)
The most important thing for Castillo are the hit and game power grades, but there’s a lot of uncertainty amongst scouts on those grades. Castillo hasn’t played in an organized game for awhile, can take wild cuts in batting practice to show his raw power and, like some Cuban defectors before him, changed his body composition a good bit with a new training regimen leading up to his big payday.
Traditionally, scouts would be bearish on Cuban prospects like this and some team desperate for good PR or any kind of talent would overpay. In the last decade or so, Cuban hitters have been on a great run and scouts are adjusting the potential outcomes accordingly. Most think Castillo has big league ability now, but will need a minor league period to adjust to game speed. 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).
The surprising thing from Castillo’s recent workouts was that his added muscle didn’t cost him any speed. He’s not polished in the outfield, but should be able to stick in center with some work. He’s even rougher in the infield, but some teams were interested in trying him at second base.
For those wondering who the next Cuban bat is to watch, I wrote up outfielder Yasmani Tomas for my old employers two months ago when he defected. If he has the same positive body change after defecting that we’ve seen from Castillo and Yasiel Puig, he has the ability to draw a big contract, but he’s still months away from getting the necessary paperwork far enough along to hold open workouts.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.