Rusney Castillo - Son Rusty, Ill. Ace?

alwyn96

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It seems like we could use a new thread around here, so here's something.
 
Around the boards, people seem much more optimistic about Rusney Castillo than I expected. He hit pretty poorly overall last season in MLB and didn't really light AAA on fire either. While he was great in August (894 OPS), he had a horrendous September that really dragged his numbers down (489 OPS). He's got tools, potential, and a long contract, but what could you confidently project him to do? Steamer projects him to a 90 wRC+.  He may be more of a well-paid 4th OF, as far as talent goes. I hope he's not, but he hasn't shown so much that I'm superconfident about him not being terrible.
 
What do people project from Castillo in 2016? Greater or less than 2 WAR? Optioned to AAA? On the big league team as a backup/starter? Somewhere else?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I discount his September swoon considering it was his first full season after having close to two years off.  Additionally, he played a total of 120 games between Pawtucket and Boston, after having never played more than 100 games in any given year prior (95 was his prior high in the Cuban league, but that doesn't account for any national team obligations).
 
I think it was as simple as he hit a wall in September.  Having now had the experience of a full professional season in the States, I think he'll be better prepared in 2016 to sustain himself through the entire schedule.
 

Rasputin

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Red(s)HawksFan said:
I discount his September swoon considering it was his first full season after having close to two years off.  Additionally, he played a total of 120 games between Pawtucket and Boston, after having never played more than 100 games in any given year prior (95 was his prior high in the Cuban league, but that doesn't account for any national team obligations).
 
I think it was as simple as he hit a wall in September.  Having now had the experience of a full professional season in the States, I think he'll be better prepared in 2016 to sustain himself through the entire schedule.
 
This seems very reasonable to me.
 
I expect 2016 to be his best season. I expect him to be unspectacular overall, while playing excellent defense. I expect we'll start seeing him pinch hit for in close games with most folks totally okay with that. I doubt he'll ever really match the hype, but I don't think he's going to be a problem.
 
And if he is, well, here's to hoping Margot's a studmuffin.
 

nvalvo

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A Castillo related thought: because very few players have deals as long as his at such a low AAV — basically, all players with similar deals are international signings — I have no idea how other GMs would value this contract. He could have anywhere between a fair amount of trade value or basically none at all. 
 

Devizier

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I'm sure this has been brought up by others, but my primary concern with Castillo is the frequency with which he mashes ground balls; over 60% in both his stints in MLB.
 
That kind of batted ball profile is what you find in low pop speedsters. If you look at the recent history of guys who are primarily ground ball hitters, it's not very promising
 
Two exceptions, of course: Jeter and Ichiro. But I think we can safely say that Castillo is not them. If he can turn out to be Ben Revere with some power, that would probably be a worthwhile investment. But if he's just Ben Revere; then he's probably overpaid (albeit useful).
 

Drek717

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What we have seen out of Castillo so far really has just been the warm up period.  Moncada looked pretty poor for his first half season and his layoff was far shorter than Castillo's with the introduction against competition roughly on par or below the Cuban competition he was facing.  Castillo has stepped into facing if not the top two tiers of competition then two of the top three (depends where you would rank NPB, below or above AAA).
 
I'm expecting a .750-.775 OPS starter with good defense and ~15-20 steals at >70% success rate to be the best "most likely" outcome of Castillo.  The worst would probably be a good 4th OF with a strong platoon bump against LHP and enough contact/power/baserunning ability to be a nice bench utility tool.
 
He could absolutely play a significant role on a championship caliber club.  A good 25 man roster needs valuable role players and Castillo look to at worst be capable of that.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if that value is achieved via a Bradley/Castillo platoon.  I think Bradley has basically the exact same last remaining question hanging over his head as Castillo's: How good is the bat.  It is entirely possible that Bradley's massive reverse platoon at the ML level this year was a mirage and he settles in to being an elite OF defender with a .725-.750 OPS line against RHP and a .600-.650 LHP line.  If Castillo's lower bound is something like a .675-.700 OPS guy against RHP and an .800 guy against LHP they could form a very solid platoon that also has the added bonus of a good, versatile defender with some pop and base running ability on the bench every day.
 
That of course begs the question: who's the other starter?  Which really brings us to the one big positional question of the off-season: Just how high tier do they shop for that last OF spot?  I'm on record here as throwing out Carlos Gonzalez.  If the Rockies ask is reasonable it fits in a lot of ways.  He's only on the books for two more years at $17M and $20M respectively but with an AAV of more like $11.6M, so the Sox can use their financial advantage to have a guy like CarGo at only about half of his luxury tax implication.  Then he's only 32 at the expiration of the deal, at worst probably an automatic arbitration decline and sandwich draft pick.
 
If instead they go with someone on the Alejandro De Aza tier they're really asking for Bradley and Castillo to both emerge as solid starters to start 2016.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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I'm mildly bearish on Rusney's offense. Looking at his numbers so far, I'm not sure I see where the potential is for dramatic improvement. He may walk more, but he's not going to walk a lot. He may strike out a bit less, but he's not going to be a contact god. A guy who hits it in the air so little and runs well should have a better BABIP than this year's .298, so there's that. And a bit of power may come--but probably not much more than a bit.
 
Devizier mentioned Ben Revere, but Revere has very good contact skills and essentially no power; another guy on that list of high-GB hitters who might be a better comp is Jose Tabata. Rusney probably has a bit more pop than Tabata, and will strike out a bit more and walk a bit less, but overall, the profile is fairly similar to what we've seen from Rusney so far. 
 
Another comp--although this one doesn't have Rusney's extreme GB tendencies--is Rajai Davis. His overall numbers seem very much in the ballpark: .269/.316/.387 career slash, 5.6/17.2 career BB/K rates, .317 BABIP, .118 ISO. If you look at Davis' peak year, 2009, he put up a slash of .305/.360/.423, and was a 3.4 fWAR player. Take a little off the BA and add a little to the ISO and that's probably a good ceiling line for Rusney--something like .290/.345/.430. But a slightly hyped version of Davis' career line is probably closer to rational optimism: say .280/.325/.410. 
 
One thing Rusney has in common with Davis: so far he has shown a pretty strong platoon split. This is problematic for the Sox, since the two LHH OFs they have in the fold, JBJ and Holt, both have shown reverse splits so far in their ML careers. If you platoon Rusney with Holt you actually take the best part of Holt's offense away.
 
Rusney might be hard to trade until he shows more, but he could be good trade bait for a trade partner that thinks they can use him in CF. You don't have to be overly optimistic about his offensive projections to see him as a 2-to-3 win player in CF, as long as the defense is at least fringe-average. And his contract is a solid bargain if he can produce like that.
 

iayork

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Savin Hillbilly said:
I'm mildly bearish on Rusney's offense. Looking at his numbers so far, I'm not sure I see where the potential is for dramatic improvement. He may walk more, but he's not going to walk a lot. He may strike out a bit less, but he's not going to be a contact god. A guy who hits it in the air so little and runs well should have a better BABIP than this year's .298, so there's that. And a bit of power may come--but probably not much more than a bit.
 
It seems like there is potential for significant improvement in his ground-ball rate.  Even a fairly small change from ground balls to line drives (or even flies) could change his power profile quite a bit.  The problem is that GB% doesn't typically change a whole lot year to year (year-to-year correlation of 0.793, according to this FanGraphs article), so on the face of it it's reasonable to be bearish, as you say.
 
But again, Rusney is such an outlier in his route to the majors that it's not at all clear that the usual GB% correlations apply.  He showed pretty good power in his second call-up (slugging over .500 through August and the beginning of September), before going into a slump at the end of the season; was the slump because pitchers identified a weakness that he can't correct, because they identified a weakness he can correct, or was it because he ran out of juice after a long season? (Or, of course, maybe it was just chance.)  Are we going to correlate his GB% with his first call-up, his second, his power surge, or his slump?  
 
Overall I'm mildly optimistic about his offense, but that's because I heavily discount his first call-up numbers, and lightly discount his season-finishing slump.  To the eye, his defense seems above average, perhaps well above average. His history says that he should be an above-average base-stealer too, though he didn't attempt much in 2015 for some reason.  All in all, despite the wide confidence intervals on all these things, I think he'll be easily worth his contract. 
 

nvalvo

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Drek717 said:
I'm expecting a .750-.775 OPS starter with good defense and ~15-20 steals at >70% success rate to be the best "most likely" outcome of Castillo.  The worst would probably be a good 4th OF with a strong platoon bump against LHP and enough contact/power/baserunning ability to be a nice bench utility tool.
 
Let's remember that there were only 28 qualified OF in baseball last season that beat a .775 OPS. 
 
The range you described is basically between Nick Markakis (.746 OPS) and Josh Reddick (.781 OPS). And it's not that far behind the Jason Heyward (.797), Justin Upton (.790), Adam Jones (.782) tier of players. I think that's a plausible upside, but I don't know that I buy it as a "most likely" outcome. 
 
There's no question that he has the tools — power, speed, range, arm, even the underlying plate discipline numbers are decent — to become that kind of player, but between his mediocre peripherals and all of the health/adjustment question marks, it's tough to figure out whether there are any real impediments to him making that kind of breakout, or if he really just needs to rest up, get all the way healthy, shake off some rust, and figure out how the pitchers are getting him to hit it on the ground so much.  
 

Fireball Fred

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I wouldn't be surprised if JBJ were traded, but if he isn't Castillo looks like a fourth OF. I just don't see the offense, especially power, that we want in LF.
 

Rasputin

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Fireball Fred said:
I wouldn't be surprised if JBJ were traded, but if he isn't Castillo looks like a fourth OF. I just don't see the offense, especially power, that we want in LF.
 
I don't see him playing left.
 
I also don't think I really care where the power comes from. In September, when Castillo was hitting like crap and Ramirez wasn't in the lineup at all, the team scored five runs a game. The offense is probably going to be fine even if Castillo is thoroughly mediocre.
 

alwyn96

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bigyazbread said:
Rusney Castillo = Illusory Ascent?
 
Ooh, I like this anagram better than mine.
 
I don't know, there's a lot of talk about how the team "needs" an ace, but of course a run on offense is worth about as much as a run saved on defense. and there's a lot of downside risk in Bradley/Castillo's offense. There's obvious upside with Bradley, but I'm not sure how high Castillo's ceiling is. I'd say Castillo is sort of like Joe Kelly - he's an interesting guy with tools, but if the Red Sox are trying to build a championship-level team for 2016, they have to make the rest of the team that much better to make up for the amount of downside risk from his roster spot.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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Nasty oil ulcers?  Nasty ulcer oils? 
 
Or how about:
 
Rusney Castillo?  O, cue silly rants.
or
Rusney Castillo = Nice story?  All us!
 
As for comps, maybe a downside of Damon Buford and a realistic comp of Austin Jackson?  His ceiling will probably depend on his contact skills.  If he can bat a legit .285, he's got enough power and speed to be a solid all-around player, even with a high GB rate.