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Rusney Castillo’s Demotion and What it Means for the Red Sox Outfield

 

This post was written exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com by Brendan Slean.

The Red Sox logjam in the outfield got a little more clarity on Thursday with the demotion of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, 27 years-old, to Triple-A Pawtucket. Castillo, who missed the first two weeks of spring training with a strained oblique, was in a battle with Shane Victorino for the final Red Sox starting outfield spot. However, manager John Farrell has stated since the beginning of spring training that if Victorino was healthy, he would be the starting right fielder.

Castillo was demoted partly because he was the odd man out in a crowded outfield and partly because he had minor league options left. Castillo will likely be the first early season outfield call up for the Red Sox once Victorino inevitably suffers an injury or once Allen Craig, current fourth outfielder, is traded. Craig’s name has surfaced early and often in trade rumors throughout spring training. Given that a trade of Craig or an injury to Victorino is likely, Castillo remains a good stash and wait fantasy outfielder. Castillo was signed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract last August so it is unlikely that the Red Sox will leave him in Triple-A for long. In Castillo’s first 40 plate appearances last September, he hit .333/.400/.528 establishing himself as major league ready outfielder.

Castillo could potentially provide an early season shot in the arm in stolen bases should he be called back up. Castillo projects as a plus-runner and is a threat to steal anytime he is on base. His ability to make contact will be his biggest challenge as he continues to adapt to American baseball. With his athletic ability and despite his demotion, Castillo remains an outfielder you want to hang onto going forward.

Only one starting outfield spot was available for the Red Sox because of the torrid spring training of projected leadoff hitter and center fielder Mookie Betts, who has hit at a .458/.490/.833 pace in 16 spring training games. The 22-year old Betts has the highest fantasy ceiling of all Red Sox outfielders with the potential to be a 5 category impact fantasy player. Betts hit at a .291 clip in 189 at-bats over 52 games at the end of last season. Red Sox management has tempered their expectations of Betts after his hot start but statistical predictions have risen in spring training. Bill James projected Betts at .321/.405/.493 with 15 HR, 76 RBI and 40 SB.

Hanley Ramirez will occupy the third starting outfield spot in left field, alongside Betts and Victorino, after converting from SS/3B. By all reports, Ramirez has been serviceable in left field and should produce as a top 60 fantasy outfielder in 2015. Ramirez may also have eligibility at SS for the early part of the fantasy season. At this juncture, Victorino seems to be the biggest fantasy liability of the three projected starters. Victorino, age 34, is coming off a season where he only played 30 games. However, in Victorino’s last healthy season in 2013, he batted .294/.351/.451 with 15 home runs.

While the Red Sox outfield is still unsettled with Victorino, Craig and IF/OF Brock Holt still in the mix, an injury to Victorino and/or trade of Craig should open the door for an early season call up for Castillo. Considering Red Sox management will not allow a $72 million player to stay in Triple-A for long, Castillo will remain a solid fantasy option with long term upside.

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