Maybe. End of article.
In late August of 2014, the Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a seven year contract and the considerable hype was ignited. Unfortunately, Castillo battled injuries, was shuttled back and forth between Triple-A and the big league club several times and was disappointing at the plate at both the minor and Major League levels. But Castillo seemingly has all the tools. Will they translate into actual performance?
It’s difficult enough to project young players with limited or no Major League data to work with. It’s even harder to project players who came from a foreign league where we even have less granular data to work with and also have to factor in how foreign league production translates into performance stateside. So figuring what to expect from Castillo in 2016 is no easy task. This is especially true when he posted just a .283 wOBA over 289 plate appearances this year, hit more than 60% ground balls and few line drives, displayed limited power, and was caught stealing more times than he was successful.
Finding a positive takeaway from his performance ain’t easy. There’s the only one pop-up all year for a tiny 2.0% IFFB%. That’s about it on the offense side. But there’s also the fantastic defense in both left field and right field, which should give him more of a leash and help convince manager John Farrell to keep him in the starting lineup. At the moment, he’s slated to act as the team’s opening day left fielder. The team still has jack of all trades Brock Holt and signed Chris Young, but he’s better utilized against lefties only, so Castillo’s playing time is far from secure. But the opportunity is there to lock up the job. Now all he has to do is perform in any way like the team envisioned he would.
Castillo’s batted ball distribution was pretty crazy. It was heavy on ground balls, and not much else. The grounders and lack of pop-ups are good for BABIP, but the poor 13.2% line drive rate certainly wasn’t. Using Alex Chamberlain’s xBABIP formula with ever so slightly different coefficients, we discover that Castillo’s .298 BABIP was virtually identical to his .299 xBABIP, or exactly league average.
If he could just push that line drive rate up 4% to 17.2%, which would still sit well below the league average, his xBABIP would jump to .310. Hitters simply don’t maintain line drive rates in the low teens. If they are unable to boost their rates higher in upcoming seasons, they are going to be out of the league, unless they supplement the lack of liners with a high walk rate and/or immense power. Castillo’s skill set includes neither of those. So you have to have some faith that the Red Sox had a clue when they signed him and that he will amount to a legit Major League hitter.
Castillo’s future Game Power was rated a 50, which equates to average and 15-18 homers over a full season. But a minuscule .103 ISO was anything but average. Interestingly, that came along with a more respectable 9.8% HR/FB rate, which was closer to the league average than his ISO. It was a poor doubles rate, along with a dearth of fly balls that held that ISO down.
The good news is that his batted ball distance was 279.5 feet, which was essentially league average. Combined with a high angle and below average standard deviation of distance, his xHR/FB rate sat at 12.3%, suggesting he should hit for at least league average power. That gives him some nice upside next season. But he’s going to need to hit more fly balls. The majority of batters that post fly ball rates in the low 20% range hit single digit home runs.
Despite possessing 65 grade speed, he posted just a 4.6 Spd score, attempted just nine steals (about a 19 steal pace in 600 plate appearances) and was successful on just four of those. He did attempt 12 steals, succeeding 10 times, at Triple-A in just 172 plate appearances, which provides some glimmer of hope that he could be more effective, while also more willing to run.
There are clearly lots of risks here and red flags abound. But the underlying talent appears to be there, which gives him meaningful fantasy value upside. Since he’s likely to come pretty cheap, he surely warrants throwing a couple of bucks at in the hopes that everything comes together and you successfully catch lightning in a bottle.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.