With the young prospect Andrew Benintendi being awarded to the MLB.com Prospect Team of the Week, it’s harder to see Rusney Castillo making a comeback.
Of course, Benintendi is only 21 years old and playing for the Class A(Advanced) Salem Red Sox. We know that he was just drafted last year in the first round. Yet, after two quick stops in Lowell and Greenville, Benintendi has moved up the minor league ladder fast. He’s now hitting a slash line of .371/.436/.639 with a home run and 23 RBIs for Salem. He even has six stolen bases and has only struck out seven times out of 97 at-bats, demonstrating great speed and a keen eye for the ball.
Combine that with a minor league fielding percentage of .990 and a range factor of 3.00 this season, you have yourself one heck of an outfielder in Benintendi. No wonder, according to Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Benintendi was named “to this week’s MLBPipeline.com Prospect Team of the Week. He also earned Carolina Player of the Week honors.”
Now, while we pass out the towels for all of the Red Sox Nation members drooling over the potential of Benintendi playing for the big club in Boston, let’s not forget that they were all salivating over another young player only a few years ago: Rusney Castillo.
The Cuban phenom was signed as an amateur free agent from his native country, with all of the taxes and other payments necessary to allow him to be a part of the Red Sox franchise in 2014. Castillo signed through 2020 with a contract worth $72.5 million. In that small sample-size of 10 games, Castillo was billed as the future of the Red Sox center field, hitting two home runs and six RBIs with a .528 slugging percentage. Combined with a 3.20 range factor on defense, Castillo was supposed to have the lead in the competition for the position, ahead of a possible talent named Mookie Betts.
Fast-forward to 2016, Castillo finds himself on the outside looking in on the Red Sox outfield; however, he’s not just outside, he needs binoculars, as he is playing in the minors.
How did it happen? Betts won the position at center field simply because Castillo injured himself in spring training in 2015. While Castillo was rehabbing in the minors, Betts broke out for himself, making incredible catches and hitting excellently at the plate, even making a bid for a possible All-Star appearance. Castillo, on the other hand, never fully regained that look that he was giving everyone in the stands, including Boston’s executive brass. Castillo hit just .253, with five homers and 29 RBIs in 80 games, pushed out to left field with the emergence of another great glove in Jackie Bradley Jr., which also pushed Betts to right field.
At the start of 2016, Castillo was considered the favorite to start in left field, but that quickly changed during the preseason. He hit so poorly that he could only crack the squad to play one game for Boston. Ironically, he went 2-for-4 in that game; however, it was clear that Boston’s staff already had made up their minds, not giving Castillo another game and sending him to Triple-A Pawtucket to get more playing time. Castillo had been pushed aside for utility player Brock Holt to start in left field, with free agent Chris Young backing him up in platoon-fashion.
Oh, how the mighty had fallen! In sixteen games for Pawtucket, Castillo has hit .268 with five RBIs and three stolen bases.
The money that the Red Sox are paying Castillo to continue on his quest to find his bat is pretty staggering. Many of the current Red Sox starters are being paid in the thousands, while Castillo is being paid millions to squander in the minors. Then, as scary as it seems, Benintendi is on the rise so fast that he is only two rungs lower in the minor system.
Judging by how praised Benintendi is at the moment, it’s not hard to fathom him joining Castillo in Triple-A in the near future. The Red Sox may want to let Benintendi grow as a player more slowly, as to not shell-shock him into the limelight only to never recover, but his play has made some of the Red Sox fans take notice. Not many people would argue against the idea of moving him up at least to Double-A in the very near future, if these results continue. If he has the same success in Portland, who is to say that Benintendi couldn’t be playing in Triple-A by the summer?
If that happens, and the trend continues, the only thing that fans will want to see out of Castillo is his trade value going up. Why spend all of that money on a potential bat that isn’t getting any younger when you could pay less for a younger bat that is quickly realizing its potential with every game?