Red Sox position battles: Mookie Betts vs Rusney Castillo


Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Hanley Ramirez are likely the three best outfielders that the Red Sox have this season. Despite that, however, manager John Farrell has prematurely announced that Shane Victorino will the starting right fielder as long as he is healthy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as players shouldn’t lose their job due to injuries). This leaves the Red Sox in a bit of a roster crunch in the outfield as, provided that Victorino is still on the roster come Opening Day, Betts and Castillo will find themselves in a battle for the starting center field job.

In Boston’s double-header against Northeastern University and Boston College yesterday, the Red Sox used a lineup that certainly appeared to be their “A-team” in the first game. Betts was leading off and playing center field in that game, while Castillo led off and played center field in the second game against BC. That would appear to indicate that Betts is the favorite to take the job (and it still may mean that), but another more likely theory is that the Red Sox wanted to observe both Betts and Castillo starting in center field on the same day.

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It’s tough to project who will win the job, and it’s possible that the Red Sox don’t even know the winner at this point. However, there might never be a clear winner as Farrell has told reporters that Castillo and Betts will receive equal playing time this season. Even if the Red Sox do trade Victorino, though, it will be up for debate as to who takes center and who takes right.

Still, there’s no clear favorite in either direction. It’s difficult to imagine the Red Sox starting their $72.5M man on the bench, but Betts is also projected to be one of the better players on the team despite his youth and also gives the Red Sox a clear leadoff hitter. Betts has shown the ability to reach base at a phenomenal rate and brings plenty of speed to the table, and while Castillo certainly has the speed, his on-base percentage may lag behind that of Betts.

The Castillo/Betts battle will be one of the major story lines for the Red Sox during spring training of this year. They’ll likely each play most of their time in center field, as the Red Sox will want to get a read on their defense out there (especially for Betts, who has been playing outfield for less than a year). Hitting will also play into the equation, though likely not quite as much (given the unsustainable nature of spring training stats) as the Red Sox will try and make a judgement on their starting center fielder. No matter who wins, though, expect both players to play key roles in an impressive Red Sox lineup this season.