It’s been a rough road for the once highly coveted outfielder.
A Cuban phenom who was considered the best player in the Puerto Rican Winter League, was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2014 to shore up the outfield.
Since then? He hasn’t been on the 40-man active roster.
Rusney Castillo, who was dangerous at the plate and exciting in the field in the Winter League, was signed by the Red Sox to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal for his five-tool capability. The then 27-year-old outfielder convinced former general manager Ben Charington that he was the answer to Boston’s outfield woes.
Who was the manager for the Criollos de Caguas squad in the Winter League?
None other than the current Red Sox manager, Alex Cora.
Cora understands how quickly high shared his thoughts about Castillo’s journey from the Winter League to the MLB with Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald:
"“He was actually the best player in the league,” Cora said “And then, like everybody else, you start making adjustments. And sometimes it’s (coming from) out of the organization. You start listening to people outside of the organization, and you start making adjustments that probably you didn’t have to make.”"
More from BoSox Injection
- How realistic are the Boston Red Sox/Chris Sale trade rumors?
- Predicting Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer’s timeline to the majors
- Giants’ desperation post-Carlos Correa debacle highlights Red Sox’ lack of urgency
- Dave Dombrowski reunites with former Red Sox ace on Phillies
- 10 grievances against the Boston Red Sox in honor of Seinfeld holiday Festivus
Castillo has mightily struggled to make an impact since his days in the Winter League. His strikeouts have been up, and his power has been down since joining the Red Sox. After getting just eight big league at-bats in 2016, Castillo didn’t even sniff the majors last year. His stock is at an all-time low.
However, Castillo has taken significant strides of progress. He had a promising season in Triple-A last year, hitting .314 with 15 HR, 43 RBI and 22 doubles in 87 games. His slash line of .314/.350/.507/.857 is the highest of his Minor League career by a long shot. Combine those stars with a decent spring training of hitting .276 with a home run, and Castillo may be clawing his way back to relevance in the organization.
Despite Castillo’s resurgence, the Red Sox need more from the 30 year old to be convinced he’s worthy of a spot on the roster. He’s been off the 40-man roster since 2016, and if it remains that way, his contract doesn’t count against the luxury tax — which is huge for a team who wants to manage their spending wisely. But his recent improvements haven’t gone unnoticed.
"“Honestly, a lot of people talk about situations and everything,” Cora said. “But he’s concentrating on playing baseball, and he has a lot of at-bats here at spring training. He’s showing a lot of people he’s a good player. We’ll see where it goes.”"
Castillo’s story is a sad, disappointing one for Red Sox fans, but it doesn’t have to end on the same note it began. If he can put together some good swings on a consistent level, he could provide a small spark in September if the team is in need of a fourth outfielder. Stranger things have happened, and the Red Sox are certainly no strangers to comeback stories.