Boston Red Sox: Rusney Castillo will play winter ball

Outfielder Rusney Castillo will play in the Puerto Rican Winter League as he attempts to work his way up the depth chart in the Boston Red Sox organization.

Rusney Castillo has been written off as a lost cause, deemed a sunk cost in the eyes of Red Sox Nation. Most have given up on the 29-year old outfielder, but he hasn’t given up on himself.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that Castillo is slated to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League starting Dec. 8, where he plans to stay until their season ends in early January.

Castillo has spent time in the Puerto Rican league in each of the past two winters, but not for this length of time. This could be a promising sign that he’s willing to put in the extra work to salvage a career that has gone astray since his much anticipated arrival.

One of the knocks on Castillo is that he appeared to get a bit too comfortable after signing a 7-year, $72.5 million contract. He was rushed to the big leagues shortly after his signing became official and delivered on the hype by hitting .333 with a .928 OPS over a 10 game sample to end the 2014 season. The early success seemed to make him feel entitled to a role at the major league level, or at the very least he became complacent with his position within the organization.

He was in for a rude awakening when that success at the plate failed to carry over to the following season, earning him a demotion back to Pawtucket. Castillo hit rock bottom this year when he appeared in only nine games for the Red Sox and was eventually removed from the 40-man roster.

Castillo hit an unappealing .263 with a .664 OPS and two home runs in Triple-A Pawtucket this year, which his hardly enough production to convince the Red Sox that he’s deserving of another opportunity.

Entering the fourth year of his deal, Castillo’s standing in the organization remains a mystery. He’s been surpassed on the depth chart by rising prospect Andrew Benintendi, who is now the front runner to begin the season as the team’s starting left fielder. Boston still needs to find a spot for Blake Swihart, whose successful transition to left field gives them depth at the position if he doesn’t manage to secure the backup catcher spot. There is also lefty masher Chris Young standing in Castillo’s way, as well as Brock Holt, who can play virtually any position.

A strong showing in winter ball won’t change Castillo’s outlook within the organization, but at least it could provide the Red Sox reason to give him opportunities in camp once spring rolls around. If he shows progress in spring training then it could make the Red Sox more comfortable relying on him as a depth option that they could call on later in the season.

Better yet, perhaps he’ll even build a bit of trade value to see if another team believes a change of scenery is all he needs to jump start his career.

Castillo has a long way to go to climb the organizational depth chart, but putting in the work this winter is a step in the right direction.

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