The offensive struggles that the Red Sox have undergone this season are completely unprecedented. Hailed as one of the best offenses in baseball entering the season, the Red Sox have limped to 21st in all of baseball in runs scored and they’ve been much worse than even that recently. In May, the Red Sox have scored the fewest runs in the major leagues in addition to the lowest OPS.
Few thought the Red Sox would be in this position after signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to large contracts in the offseason. However, many have also pointed out that the Red Sox might have a quick fix to their lineup’s struggles with high-profile Cuban signee Rusney Castillo languishing in Triple-A Pawtucket. But while Castillo might be able to provide a boost to the Red Sox lineup, it’s worth wondering just how much he’ll be able to help.
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Castillo’s first full season in a professional organization hasn’t gone totally as planned. Most would have expected that Castillo would have been in Boston for a while at this point in the season, but he has missed significant time due to injuries. In the 18 games that Castillo has been on the field, however, he has been quite good. Castillo is currently slashing .293/.341/.440 with a pair of home runs and six stolen bases with the PawSox.
Those are hardly superstar numbers, but it’s worth mentioning that Castillo went through a bit of a slump after returning from the disabled list. Aside from that rough stretch on the plate, he has been brilliant both in the field and at the plate.
When the Red Sox inevitably promote Castillo (a decision that is looking more imminent by the day), they will likely plug him in as the starting right fielder and occasionally use him in center field to spell Mookie Betts. Right field has been a weak spot for much of the season, so Castillo seems to be an obvious fit there, but Shane Victorino has actually been impressive recently. While Victorino has struggled mightily against same-handed pitchers, he has dominated lefties to the tune of a .364/.500/.555 slash line in 28 plate appearances.
As the Red Sox will aim to have Victorino’s bat in the lineup against lefties, that could limit Castillo to the strong side of a platoon. And as good as Castillo may be, it appears foolish to pin a season’s hopes on a platoon player. Of course, the Red Sox could (and likely will) trade Victorino before the end of the season, but then Castillo will have to replace his production against left-handed pitching.
Castillo is a major part of the future of the Red Sox and, frankly, should be a part of the present. At this point, it appears that Red Sox management is wasting time by not promoting him, but he cannot save the lineup on his own. It’s fair to have high hopes for Castillo– after all, his $72.5M contract is the highest ever for a Cuban player– but, though his production might be phenomenal, other factors account for Boston’s struggles.
The Red Sox lineup has largely struggled based on two facets: struggles against left-handed pitching and hitting with runners in scoring position. As we’ve discussed, Castillo likely won’t help much against lefties (despite being a solid right-handed bat) as the Red Sox will work Victorino’s bat into the lineup, and the runners in scoring position issues may work themselves out on their own. It’s just not statistically repeatable for the Red Sox to be roughly league-average with nobody on the base paths and then one of the worst in baseball with runners in scoring position.
When the Red Sox promote Castillo, he’ll give them another solid contributor and will undoubtedly help the lineup. However, he can’t be a savior to them; at this point, no one person can. Ideally, his arrival with coincide with the resolution of Boston’s other issues and perhaps he’ll provide a spark to the team. The fate of the 2015 Red Sox does not rest on Castillo’s shoulders, though, it’s on the rest of the lineup.