Rusney Castillo: top, middle, or bottom of Red Sox lineup?
Red Sox fans didn’t see much of Rusney Castillo last season. After the Red Sox signed the Cuban defector to a 7 year/$72.5M contract in late August, he took to the minor leagues for a brief stint and only joined the Red Sox after the Triple-A postseason. Castillo only wound up playing ten games for the Red Sox last season, but it only took those ten games for him to display how dynamic and dominant a player he can be for the Red Sox. With the contract commitment that the Red Sox have made to Castillo and his excellent (albeit brief) performance with the Red Sox, there’s no doubt that he’ll begin next season in Boston as the starting center fielder. The only question is where he’ll bat in the lineup.
In his 10 games in Boston last season, Castillo slashed .333/.400/.528 with 2 home runs and 3 stolen bases in 40 plate appearances. His ability to hit for average and power to go with his top-notch speed allows him to profile anywhere in the lineup and, in a stacked Red Sox lineup, that makes it all the more difficult to predict where he’ll hit.
Still an unproven commodity, it’s difficult to imagine the Red Sox placing him in the middle of the lineup among the likes of David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli, and Pablo Sandoval. Plus, though he certainly has some pop, putting him in the position of a run producer would somewhat waste his elite speed.
With those four players likely to take up the 3-6 spots in the lineup in some order, this leaves the 1-2 spots and 7-9 spots in the lineup as options for Castillo. Mookie Betts was incredibly impressive during a 50-game stint with the Red Sox last season, hitting .291/.368/.444 with 5 home runs and 7 stolen bases, showing all the tools necessary to be a phenomenal leadoff man. The Red Sox should keep Betts in that role and, while Castillo might well be a better hitter than Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox are unlikely to move Pedroia from the #2 spot in the lineup unless he truly proves he is incapable there.
The Red Sox’ abundance of offensive wealth could relegate Castillo to the bottom third of the lineup and, though Castillo could be a better hitter than Xander Bogaerts or Christian Vazquez, it would be an interesting move to bat Castillo ninth. This would give the Red Sox a “double leadoff man” between Castillo and Betts when the lineup turns over, allowing both of their speed to play up and put speedy runners on base for the big guns in Boston’s lineup.
Unless Castillo proves himself to be one of the best hitters in the Red Sox lineup, the ninth spot could be the most beneficial place for him in the batting order. However, no matter where Castillo bats, the Red Sox lineup profiles as one of the deepest and most powerful in baseball and Castillo ought to be a big part of that offense.