Another non-Cubs baseball day, another speculation piece. It seems that one of the latest Cuban defectors, Rusney Castillo, will hold a showcase for scouts next week. It sounds like the Orioles and the Dodgers are linked to Rusney so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs went to scout him as well. You can check out the stats (courtesy of GW at Obstructed View) and Ben Badler's latest post at Baseball America for some juicy videos.
The gist of Rusney Castillo is that he's a fast little guy who can play a decent outfield while having line drive gap power, meaning he'll likely hit more doubles and triples than homers. That can play very well in a place like Wrigley Field (or anywhere for that matter), especially when the wind blows in. The disagreement seems to be whether Rusney is a legitimate starting center fielder or just a fourth outfielder, but either way, a line drive bat can be valuable. Rusney turns 27 soon and that's about the age when Yoenis Cespedes signed with the A's, so whoever gets him will be getting most of his prime years, albeit with a bit of rust as he transitions to the MLB game.
Because of the proximity to the trade deadline, the showcase can be important in establishing which team will still be looking for an outfielder before July 31. For the Cubs, I'm not sure how they would rate Rusney, as he appears to generate concerns about his plate discipline, but the age and the fact that he will only cost money suggest it's not a bad gamble. For teams that are looking at Rusney as an option either as a starter or off the bench, the Cubs can put a wrench in their plans by bidding on him, signing him and then forcing the rest of the majors to have to trade for other bats such as Chicago's own corps of outfielders, including the red-hot Justin Ruggiano or a capable defender in Nate Schierholtz.
As a long-term option, the Cubs' middle infielders are more major-league ready than their outfield prospects, though that may change if they view Arismendy Alcantara as a more-than-adequate center fielder or if they shock the world and bring up Jorge Soler for September and beyond. However, having another up-and-comer like Rusney along with a free agent signing (maybe Colby Rasmus?) could do wonders in stabilizing the Cubs outfield, while allowing their top prospects in Javier Baez and Kris Bryant to remain infielders.
The showcase is on July 26 and we'll see how closely the Cubs check up on Rusney Castillo.
UPDATE 7/19 10:20 AM: I guess they're interested.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) July 19, 2014
UPDATE 7/25 12:50 PM: Since the Cubs are stockpiling shortstops anyway, this is a pretty interesting development on the eve of the showcase:
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) July 25, 2014
UPDATE 7/26 5:10 PM: Baseball America has a really nice summary of Castillo's showcase here. Sounds like he impressed.