Rusney Castillo is still an unknown among the majority of American baseball fans.
The 27-year-old left Cuba in December of 2013 and signed a six-year, $72 million contract with the Red Sox last August, the largest deal ever handed out to a Cuban free agent. He reached Boston in time for the final 10 games of the 2014 campaign and impressed in 40 plate appearances, going 12-for-36 with a double, two homers, three steals (three attempts) and a 3:6 BB:K. Take a look at Castillo's first major league home run, which he hit off right-hander Steve Geltz on Sept. 25.
Of course, 10 games is too small a sample to draw any meaningful conclusions, but the video below, produced by Baseball America, gives you a better idea of the tools Castillo brings to the table.
While the raw talent is undeniable, expectations for Castillo must be kept realistic. The value of Castillo's contract exceeded that of the one handed out to Jose Abreu the year before ($68 million), but thinking Castillo will make the kind of fantasy impact in 2015 that Abreu did in his first major league season seems misguided. That's not to say Castillo still can't be a highly useful fantasy option, but given the lack of an MLB track record and the uncertainty regarding his place in the Boston lineup, it's hard to project him to finish any higher than a top-50 fantasy player this season.
As I did with Jesse Hahn on Thursday, I want to look at our 2015 projections for Castillo and compare them to those from a couple other projection systems.
RotoWire projection: .273/.333/.398, 95 runs, 68 RBI, 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases in 33 attempts (153 games, 640 PA).
Steamer projection: .262/.312/.406, 58 runs, 57 RBI, 12 home runs, 15 stolen bases in 23 attempts (122 games, 498 PA).
Fans projection: .278/.339/.429, 64 runs, 69 RBI, 16 home runs, 26 stolen bases in 31 attempts (137 games, 558 PA).
The projections are, somewhat surprisingly, fairly close aside from the number of games played and our estimate for his run-scoring production. Our projection of 95 runs seems contingent on Castillo batting near the top of the order. If he were to settle into the six- or seven-hole in the order, those expectations would have to be tempered, though that would also likely mean an increase in RBI. All that aside, the consensus seems to be that Castillo will easily hit double-digit home runs and swipe 15-plus bases.
Let's consider a scenario in which Castillo hits 16 home runs and swipes 25 bags, similar to the estimates provided by Fans. While perhaps optimistic, that kind of production would put Castillo in some pretty elite company. Only four players reached those levels in both statistics last season; Carlos Gomez (23 HR, 34 SB), Charlie Blackmon (19 HR, 28 SB), Jimmy Rollins (17 HR, 28 SB), and Jacoby Ellsbury (16 HR, 39 SB).
Of those four players, one is being routinely (and justifiably) taken in the top 10 in NFBC drafts (Gomez), two are being taken in the top-22 (Gomez and Ellsbury) and three are being taken in the top 71 (Gomez, Ellsbury and Blackmon). The outlier is Rollins (NFBC ADP: 163.73), though his batting average and age have a lot to do with that.
Castillo, meanwhile, is currently sitting with an ADP of 117.4, 10 spots lower than teammate Mookie Betts.
It's entirely possible Castillo could fall closer to the Streamer estimates, but even 122 games of that level of production would still be plenty valuable. Let's look at one more projection, from CBSSports.com:
.280 average, 71 runs, 59 RBI, 15 home runs, 26 steals
I think the realistic floor with Castillo should be enough to push him at least into the top 100, though I'm admittedly bullish on Castillo's potential for 2015. In my initial top-350 rankings, which were compiled into the RotoWire Roundtable composite rankings, Castillo checked in as my 56th overall player. I was the high man, but the range was actually small for a relatively unknown commodity like Castillo. James Anderson and Michael Rusignola have him four spots lower than I do at No. 60, while Jeff Erickson and Derek VanRiper have him at 67 and 84, respectively.
Buy while the price is still low, because it could shoot up once Grapefruit League action begins.