Thursday, July 24, 2014
Cubs looking at Cuban OF Rusney Castillo
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo will be holding a workout this Saturday in Miami, and the Chicago Cubs will have a significant presence looking on, including some high-ranking officials, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
Opinions vary on Castillo’s potential, but those who like the right-handed free agent believe he has a chance to impact a big league roster soon with his speed and surprising power.
Though he hasn’t seen live pitching in a while, Castillo is said to be very coachable and has even improved his swing since leaving Cuba. An explosive athlete, the 27-year-old Castillo is apparently in great condition but currently not in baseball shape.
At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Castillo is well built, but a smaller, stocky player who has enough speed to be able to stay in center field for a few more years. The complimentary comparisons start at Brett Gardner and go as high as Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
However, the evaluations aren’t all positive for Castillo.
While Castillo's numbers look strong, they don’t represent the type of dominance seen from recent Cuban sensations Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes, which draws concerns from talent evaluators.
There is a prevailing sentiment that after age 24 or so, Cuban players aren’t challenged enough by the pitching in their home leagues, thus limiting their development and making it hard to determine just how much of an impact an older defector may have in the majors.
There are also significant questions about Castillo’s plate approach, as he has a reputation of being a free swinger, which certainly has to be an issue for a front office that often focuses on acquiring patient offensive players. Add in the fact he’s right-handed while the Cubs are in need of lefty talent, and one has to wonder if he’s the right fit for this organization.
With five years of experience in Cuba's top professional league, Castillo is exempt from MLB's international spending restrictions. Any interested team will only have to pay money to obtain Castillo’s services, as opposed to giving up a draft pick or trading away prospects. With that in mind, the bidding for Castillo will almost certainly go quite high, and the Cubs will have to weigh the positives and negatives before deciding whether investing big money in him is the right move for them.
The Cubs have done quite a bit of homework on Castillo, and, while Saturday’s workout certainly won’t be the deciding factor for the Cubs, it will be a good opportunity for some of their advanced scouts to get their eyes on him and evaluate his skill set.
As the Cubs have shown, they’re of the philosophy that one can never have enough bats in the system. If the right people come away impressed with Castillo, expect the Cubs to be in on the bidding.