The Baltimore Orioles may be looking to dip their toes in the Cuban talent pool once again. Rusney Castillo, an outfielder who compares closely to Brett Gardner with a bit more power according to scouts, is in the process of arranging a private workout with the Orioles after his impressive showcase on Saturday.
Castillo was considered to be very impressive, according to scouts, during his workout for teams Saturday, running a 60-yard dash in 6.4-6.45 seconds while showing off solid power to all fields. Some scouts seem to believe that he could possibly make an impact in the majors during the second half.
Scouts that watched Castillo workout told Walter Villa of Baseball America that Castillo has 60-80 grade speed, a 50 grade arm, but a legitimate bat that should hit in the majors. Castillo is 5-foot-9, 205 pounds (up about 20 pounds since he left Cuba), and has an aggressive hitting approach.
The Orioles’ most recent foray into the Cuban talent pool produced Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez, a pair of light-hitting outfielders that continue to develop in the organization’s minor league system.
Castillo is already 27-years-old and last played in the Cuba’s top professional league, Serie Nacional, during the 2012-2013 season. During his five-year career in Cuba he hit .319/.383/.516 with 51 home runs, 226 RBI and 76 stolen bases over 360 games. He did play for the Cuban national team in the 2011 Baseball World Cup and 2011 Pan American Games.
At the World Cup in Panama Castillo put on quite the show, hitting .512/.524/.854 in 10 games when he went 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples, four doubles, a walk and two strikeouts. He then made the tournament’s all-star team after leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging.
In October 2011, Castillo played in the Pan American Games in Mexico, where he hit .273/.333/.318 by going 6-for-22 with a double, two walks and three strikeouts. Those numbers aren’t quite as glamorous as his World Cup performance but he didn’t completely fall apart in such a small sample size either.
Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports is representing Castillo and Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow said on Monday that his club may schedule a private workout with Castillo.
“He’s definitely an interesting player,” Luhnow said.
However, Castillo will likely be priced out of the Astros comfort zone as Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported that Castillo has “sparked speculation” that he could match Yasiel Puig’s $42 million contract.
The Orioles first scouted Castillo five months ago in the Dominican Republic shortly after his defection from Cuba in December 2013. If the organization is serious about signing Castillo, however, they are likely going to have to shell out a contract somewhere in between what the Cincinnati Reds signed Aroldis Chapman for in 2010, which was $30.25 million, and Puig’s $42 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There will also be heavy competition for his services from division rivals such as the New York Yankees, who sent four team representatives to watch him on Saturday, and the Boston Red Sox who sent five. A bidding war could certainly ensue if both teams are serious about acquiring the Cuban outfielder’s services.
The largest contract given to a Cuban defector was first baseman José Dariel Abreu’s six-year, $68 million contract, who was signed by the Chicago White Sox. Outfielder Yasiel Puig received a $42 million contract from the Dodgers in 2012. The largest contract given to a pitcher was the $32 million the New York Yankees gave to José Contreras in 2002, while the Cincinnati Reds signed Aroldis Chapman for $30.25 million in 2010.