Notes: Rooting On Rusney

Matthew Pouliot
Seth Trachtman looks at the week ahead, including two starts for Reds flamethrower Luis Castillo

The Week Ahead: Seeing Red

Seth Trachtman looks at the week ahead, including two starts for Reds flamethrower Luis Castillo

With Mike Napoli in free agency and no optimal internal candidates to replace him, the Red Sox figured to make a strong bid for Jose Abreu last winter. And they were one of the finalists for his services, but in the end, they declined to match the White Sox’s six-year, $68 million bid.

In Boston’s defense, Abreu chose to sign the day in between Games 5 and 6 in the World Series. At that point, it’s hard to blame the Red Sox for being less than totally focused on inking a player for 2014. Still, he was an obvious fit for the team and the surest thing that’s ever come out of Cuba. I had him pegged for a $70 million-$80 million contract on the day he defected. In that market, it was ridiculous that he had to settle for less (perhaps he wouldn’t have had he let things play out for a few more weeks).

Rusney Castillo didn’t have to settle for less, thanks in large part to the success of Abreu and Yasiel Puig. He’s proud recipient of a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox, finalized on Saturday. But while Abreu was clearly the best hitter in Cuba at the time of his departure, Castillo was something like the 20th best in a league with very serious depth issues. If you put stock in Clay Davenport’s statistical translations, Castillo’s .324/.373/.555 line in Cuba in 2011 translated to a .220/.247/.362 line in the majors. His .332/.401/.545 line in 2012 was equivalent to a .237/.276/.390 line in the majors.

To put that in perspective, Jose Abreu’s .394/.526/.837 line in 2012 translated into a .303/.387/.610 line in the majors. He’s currently hitting .308/.366/.598 for the White Sox this year.

Of course, two years changes things. Castillo was listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds when last seen in Cuba, and his speed was his biggest asset. He’s now 205 pounds at age 27, and he has the look of a power hitter, if not the height. There aren’t many active players standing 5’9” with more than middling power; Dustin Pedroia has the highest career slugging percentage of the bunch, followed by Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. If you consider Miguel Tejada “active,” he’s the one true power hitter of the group. Still, just one inch taller is Andrew McCutchen, and Rusney has a lot of McCutchen in his current build. Whether it translates to game power is anyone’s guess. The Red Sox obviously think he’ll be able to pop a few over the Green Monster.

Frankly, I’m more skeptical of his overall game, perhaps in part because the only viewable game footage of Castillo is of his old, slighter self. And those videos make him look much more like a fourth outfielder-type. I hear him talked up as the long-term leadoff hitter the Red Sox need to replace Jacoby Ellsbury, but I don’t think he’ll be that at all. He has the speed, but not the on-base skills. Mookie Betts is the long-term leadoff man the Red Sox need, though where he’s going to play now is anyone’s guess.

From Castillo, I’d look for 15-20 homers and 20-25 steals per year, but maybe not much more than a .300 OBP to go along with it. Even with the low OBP, he could be an above average regular if the defense proves strong. Also, that’d make him a pretty strong fantasy outfielder, especially with the Red Sox offense likely to bounce back in future years.

That said, there’s definite bust potential here, especially with the big contract likely to lead to high expectations right out of the gate. The plan is for Castillo to make his major league debut next month, but I don’t think it’s necessary to stash him in redraft leagues in the hopes of a short-term payoff. For 2015, he currently rates as a $15-$18 player, given that he’ll almost certainly be penciled into Boston’s outfield. I don’t think I’ll be as high on him as others will, however.

AL Notes

- After losing Garrett Richards to a terribly unfortunate knee injury, the Angels will try to add a starter prior to the Aug. 31 deadline for setting postseason rosters. Bartolo Colon and Trevor Cahill appear to be the best of what might be available, ahead of names like A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman. No one is going to replace Richards, though, and now the Angels have to hope Matt Shoemaker holds up as a postseason caliber arm, something I’ve been skeptical about. Shoemaker has the terrific K/BB ratio (102/19 in 103 2/3 IP) that suggests he’s legit, but he’s also something of a one-trick pony with his splitter. I still don’t think he’s going to last as an above average starter.

As for Richards, it’s certainly of no solace to Angels fans, but I like him better as a 2015 property now than I would have had he ended up throwing 220-250 innings this year. At 169 innings when he got hurt, he was on pace to finish the regular season right around 215 or so, a huge jump for a guy whose previous career high was 157. Richards isn’t a lock to be ready for Opening Day, but the torn patellar tendon isn’t something that figures to really limit him once his rehab is complete. If he proves healthy next spring, he’ll be one of my top 20 SPs, and if it instead seems that he’ll be a month behind, that’ll just make him a better value pick on draft day.

- The A’s didn’t immediately name a closer after placing Sean Doolittle on the disabled list Sunday with an intercostal strain. Luke Gregerson has been the primary eighth-inning guy, and he’d be my first pickup in fantasy leagues. It helps Gregerson’s case that Ryan Cook has had a couple of hiccups lately.

- In need of a fourth catcher, the A’s added Geovany Soto from the Rangers on Sunday. That’s because John Jaso has concussion symptoms again, and Stephen Vogt is probably finished catching this year because of his plantar fasciitis. Soto will back up Derek Norris for now, but the plan shouldn’t be for him to start games down the stretch once Jaso is healthy. Also, Vogt is still starting elsewhere regularly, limiting Soto’s opportunities to contribute. Soto probably just became worthless in AL-only leagues.

With Soto out of the mix, Tomas Telis is getting called up to the Rangers. The 23-year-old hit .319/.353/.434 in the minors this year, but he did quite a bit of DHing and playing first base in addition to his catching. J.P. Arencibia could also resume doing some catching, but Robinson Chirinos figures to get the most time behind the plate. The alternative to Telis would have been Chris Gimenez, but he was traded to the Indians the day before Soto was moved. Telis is worth a try for any Soto owners in AL-only leagues.

- According to’s Ken Rosenthal, the A’s could also pull off a trade for Yunel Escobar after claiming him off waivers from the Rays. They’ll have until Tuesday to make a deal. Escobar has lost a step on defense this year, which is why the Rays would consider moving him even though he’s under control for a relatively modest $13 million for 2016-17. The A’s could use the extra shortstop with Jed Lowrie injured, and they could always stick Lowrie at second base next month if Escobar performs well. Plus, Lowrie is a free agent at season’s end.

If the Rays trade Escobar, I’m guessing they’d finish out the year with Ben Zobrist at shortstop, opening up playing time at second base for Logan Forsythe for now and for Nick Franklin in September. Ideally, Franklin would be worthy of an immediate callup as Escobar’s replacement, but he’s hit just .197/.274/.318 in 18 games for Triple-A Durham since coming over from the Mariners in the David Price deal. Longtime prospect Hak-Ju Lee is a natural shortstop, but he’s had a catastrophic season after missing most of 2013 with a knee injury; he’s hit .203/.283/.264 in 296 at-bats for Durham.

- A well-timed hot streak, in combination with Manny Machado’s season-ending knee injury, has restored Steve Pearce’s mixed-league fantasy value. I mentioned Christian Walker last week as a possibility to step in at first base for the Orioles if Machado couldn’t return, but it’ll be Pearce as long as he hits. Walker has been slumping of late anyway, leaving him at .256/.338/.403 in 34 games since a promotion to Triple-A.

- In a bit of a surprise, the Royals appear set to promote outfielder Terrence Gore for the final month, even though he’s hit .225/.292/.262 in a season mostly spent in high-A ball. Of course, it’s all about the speed with him. He’s 46-for-53 stealing bases, including 10-for-13 in just 13 games (15 at-bats) since being moved up to Triple-A. So the Royals are already preparing him for the pinch-running role he’ll have in September. Since he’ll probably never get even one start, he’s only an option for steal-needy AL-only teams; he might be good for 7-10 swipes, but he’ll be a zero elsewhere.

- A Chad Qualls trade is unlikely, but the Astros did put their closer on waivers over the weekend. If he’s moved, then Jose Veras presumably would become Houston’s top choice for saves. He’s been much more effective than Josh Fields of late, allowing two runs and striking out 12 in 11 innings over the last 30 days.

- It would have been nice to see Marcus Semien up following the White Sox’s trade of Gordon Beckham to the Angels, but they decided on Carlos Sanchez instead. Sanchez added a little power to his game in Triple-A this year, hitting seven homers for Triple-A Charlotte after combining for two the previous three years. Still, his offensive game is mostly about hitting singles. He and Semien presumably will share time at second base in September, leaving either without much fantasy value. Semien remains the more interesting of the two; he’s hit .287/.398/.500 with six homers in 136 at-bats for Charlotte since the All-Star break. Perhaps he could also play third against left-handers next month.

- Adam Eaton is all set to rejoin the White Sox, giving them a crowded outfield for the first time since Avisail Garcia went down in April. Dayan Viciedo is the one who deserves to head to the bench, but the White Sox don't have much to gain for the future by playing Alejandro De Aza over him. A De Aza trade would still make plenty of sense here. 

- The A's are planning to call up Drew Pomeranz to start Wednesday against the Astros, and while it could be one and done for the lefty, he certainly has a chance to prove very useful in mixed leagues the rest of the way. Don't forget that he had a 2.91 ERA in 55 2/3 innings before breaking his hand. In Triple-A, he had a 3.69 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings.

- Xander Bogaerts going on the seven-day DL with a concussion makes Brock Holt and Betts better plays in mixed leagues this week. Holt will play shortstop, which means he won’t take any outfield time away from Betts.

NL Notes

- A Jonathan Papelbon trade remains a long shot, but let’s not rule it out. It only takes one contender wanting to sure up its bullpen, and while Papelbon’s $13 million salary for 2015 is a bitter pill, at least a trade shouldn’t require much talent going the other way in return. The Tigers look more desperate by the day, the Dodgers don’t have a clear answer in the eighth inning and the A’s… well, the A’s budgeted $10 million for Jim Johnson this year, so taking on Papelbon’s 2015 salary isn’t necessarily a killer. They’re all in anyway, and since they just lost Doolittle for at least a couple of weeks, another reliever would help.

Again, I think it’s a long shot, but there’s still the chance Papelbon goes. It makes it worth holding on to Ken Giles in all formats for another week.

- Maikel Franco hit for the cycle for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday and is batting .330 with nine homers in 191 at-bats since the beginning of July. The Phillies are set to promote him next month, which could result in Cody Asche getting a look in left field at Domonic Brown’s expense. A week ago, I said Franco looked like an NL-only guy for the final month since he’d likely split time with Asche. As well as he’s playing right now, though, the Phillies should give him every opportunity to secure the third base job, which could make him useful right away in mixed leagues.

- Because Tim Lincecum used to be Tim Lincecum!, there’s too much overreaction to his highs and lows these days. Just as there was no good reason to believe he’d turned the corner after the no-hitter against the Padres, there’s also little reason for the Giants to pull him from the rotation now, though they’re reportedly contemplating it. There’s a school of thought that Lincecum might be a more valuable pitcher out of the pen than in the rotation, and I think that might be the case, in general terms. On this Giants team with one of the game’s top pens and little rotation depth, I doubt Lincecum is more valuable in relief. If the Giants do go that route, Yusmeiro Petit would make sense as a spot starter in mixed leagues, though not as a full-time guy. Still, the most likely scenario has the Giants skipping Lincecum once or twice and then going right back to him as a starter.

- Might Fredi Gonzalez finally bail on B.J. Upton with the center fielder coming off four straight hitless games and batting .119 in 59 at-bats this month? Since mercifully being bumped from the leadoff spot, Upton is drawing walks from the eighth spot in the order, but he’s doing nothing else. The Braves would almost certainly be better off with Emilio Bonifacio in center field, but what really has to sting is that Jordan Schafer is hitting .302 with nine walks and eight steals in 53 at-bats for the Twins.

- So much for the idea that the Cardinals had a quick fix available for Justin Masterson. He had one strong outing for the team a couple of weeks ago, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Marlins, but he’s given up 19 runs over 16 innings in his other four starts. I think it’s time to try Masterson in the pen and put Carlos Martinez back in the rotation. Tyler Lyons is another option if they’d rather keep Martinez in relief, but Martinez has a chance to be a dynamic postseason starter and his innings count is right about where the Cardinals should want it if they’re going to try it. If Martinez does get a look as a starter, he’d be worth the mixed league pickup for sure.

- Three games, one cycle, and Michael Cuddyer is back on the disabled list, which means the slumping Charlie Blackmon won’t have to worry about losing playing time these next couple of weeks. It also makes Drew Stubbs a worthy play in mixed leagues when the Rockies happen to be at home (not so much this week, though).

- It’s safe to say Pedro Alvarez’s two-homer game Saturday won him the Pirates’ first base job against right-handers for a spell. Even before that, Ike Davis had started one game in five days, and regardless of how one feels about Alvarez vs. Davis, the worst plan of all was for Alvarez, Davis and Gaby Sanchez to all play about one-third of the time. Alvarez has at least a smidgen of mixed-league value while starting; there’s still the chance he can get hot for a spell.

- While the Mets seem to have ruled out a Noah Syndergaard callup, there still hasn’t been word either way on Archie Bradley’s fate with the Diamondbacks. The right-hander, pitching at Double-A of late after making five starts in Triple-A earlier, has a 2.21 ERA in August, though he’s pitching just 20 1/3 innings in his four starts and walked 12 in that span. The Diamondbacks are expected to go to a six-man rotation next month, so there will be room for them so make a move. However, I still think Bradley is probably just an NL-only guy if he does get the call in September. 

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