The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year deal worth $72.5 million late last week, and now that he's been added to the player pool in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues, he already checks in at a 16 percent ownership rate. Clearly, the impression is that he'll make his Red Sox debut sometime in the next few weeks and play productively over the last few weeks of the season. But will he actually have redraft value in standard-sized Fantasy leagues?
Certainly the upside is there. The last two key Cuban players to sign big contracts were Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, and Fantasy owners who invested early on either player clearly enjoyed a nice payoff. With Castillo signing a bigger contract than either player, it's easy to connect the dots and see him as Fantasy's next breakout star.
However, Castillo will have to success or fail on his own merits; the performances of Puig and Abreu will bear no weight on how the Red Sox' newest addition performs while standing in the batter's box. He doesn't have nearly the size of either Puig or Abreu, even considering his reported increase in strength since playing in Cuba. While Abreu came into the league mashing out of the gate, it make take an adjustment period for Castillo to hit even 20 home runs per 500 at-bats. Castillo also doesn't profile as a high-average hitter like Puig and Abreu.
Perhaps a better comparison for Castillo is his countryman and new teammate Yoenis Cespedes, who broke into the league with a very nice .292/.356/.505 line with 23 home runs and 16 stolen bases but has since proven to be a batter than provides a subpar average but potential in home runs and RBI. While Castillo may reach Cespedes' level of home-run power at some point, it's probably more wise to expect 10-15 home runs in his first full season. He does have the speed to contribute a solid stolen-base total as well.
Add it all together, and we may be looking at a player who realistically ends up with a stat line that falls between B.J. Upton (.205/.280/.325 with nine HRs and 19 SBs) and Brett Gardner (.269/.346/.435 with 15 HRs and 19 SBs) in his first full season. Considering his long layoff from baseball and the potential culture shock of facing major-league pitchers, I don't expect much from Castillo in Fantasy leagues this season. Also considering the logjam the Red Sox have in the outfield, it's likely Castillo doesn't see everyday action right out of the gate. A good speed/BA player like Jarrod Dyson stands a much better chance at helping Fantasy owners over the next few weeks.