Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports will represent free agent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, Baseball America has learned.
Castillo, 26, is free to sign with a major league team. He has acquired permanent Haitian residency papers, an unblocking license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. Castillo has been training in the northern region of the Dominican Republic, though he had to take time off recently due to a finger injury.
Teams are preparing for Castillo to have a showcase soon, either in the United States or the Dominican Republic, though the dates and locations of the showcase are still unknown. Other clients of Roc Nation Sports, a joint venture with CAA, include Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano and Yankees lefthander C.C. Sabathia.
Scouts don’t expect Castillo to be an immediate impact player along the lines of Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Abreu, but several scouts who have seen Castillo before he left and since he has been in the Dominican Republic have been impressed, though there’s a split on whether he profiles as an everyday player or a fourth outfielder.
At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Castillo has good strength for his relatively short stature and is an athletic player whose best tool is his plus-plus speed. He was one of the better base stealers in Cuba, going 22-for-29 in steals in 2011-12 to rank third in the league in stolen bases, one year after leading the league with 29 bags in 35 attempts.
Castillo can sting the ball from the right side of the plate, projecting as a line-drive bat who hits a lot of doubles and triples rather than home runs. He’s an aggressive hitter with good bat speed, though his swing can get long at times and he will expand his strike zone.
Castillo mostly played center field and right field in Cuba. He does have a small amount of history in the infield, but he has been working out for teams as a center fielder and is expected to sign as an outfielder.
In his final season in Cuba playing for Ciego De Avila in 2012-13, Castillo hit just .250/.352/.342 in 43 games. It was an uncharacteristically poor season for Castillo, who in 2011-12 hit .332/.395/.545 in 420 plate appearances with 16 home runs, 32 walks, 42 strikeouts and a league-leading 28 doubles.
Castillo’s international tournament exposure had been limited since November 2012, when he travelled to Taiwan and Japan for an exhibition series with the team Cuba would end up sending to the World Baseball Classic last year in March. Castillo was left off the WBC roster, however, and before Castillo left Cuba, he had been suspended for trying to defect from Cuba.
His best showing at an international tournament came in October 2011 at the World Cup in Panama. Castillo made the all-tournament team by leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging with a .512/.524/.854 slash line in 10 games, going 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples and four doubles.