Rusney Castillo Peraza
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 170 lb.
Castillo played for the Ciego de Avila Tigers in Cuba, debuting in 2008-2009 at age 22; he went 15 for 43 with 3 doubles, a triple and four walks. He fielded .911, backing up Mario Vega at second base and Adonis García at third. As a utilityman in 2009-2010, he hit .303/.333/.404. He became the starting right fielder in 2010-2011 and responded with a .324/.373/.555 line. He hit 22 doubles and 18 homers, scored 75 runs and drove in 79 in 88 games. He was 10th in the Cuban Serie Nacional in RBI, tied Urmaris Guerra for 9th in total bases (202) and led with 29 steals, 6 more than runner-up Yoelvis Leyva. He was caught only six times. Surprisingly, he had only stolen successfully twice in eight tries over his first two campaigns.
In early 2014, he defected from Cuba and established residency in Haiti; he was cleared by the US government to sign a contract in July, starting a bidding war among major league teams. 28 teams sent scouts to see him, and at least seven were willing to offer big money. On August 22nd, it was reported that the Boston Red Sox won the sweepstakes with a bid of $72.5 million over seven years, although the deal would not be made official for a few more days. It was the largest amount paid to sign an amateur player, topping the $68 million paid by the Chicago White Sox for Jose Abreu a year earlier. Castillo was expected to make his big league debut before the end of the season, despite not playing competitively for a year and a half. He did play his first game in The Show on September 17, 2014, without having played a minor league game. He started in center field, batting 7th, and went 1-for-4 in a 9-1 loss to the Pittsbugh Pirates. His first big league hit was a 4th-inning single off Francisco Liriano. He finished the year with a promising start: a batting line of .333/.400/.528 with a double and 2 homers in 10 games.
Castillo hit a bump in spring training 2015 as he missed two weeks of exhibition games with an oblique injury. He hit well when he returned, but by that time, the center field job had been claimed by Mookie Betts, who put up otherworldly numbers in the spring. With that position taken, veterans Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino playing the outfield corners and his other position, second base, manned by Dustin Pedroia, there was no place for him in the starting lineup. With the team brass wanting him to see a lot of playing time to make up for his curtailed 2014 season, he was sent to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox to start the year. He hit .293 in 18 games before getting called up to Boston on May 22nd. He played 80 games in the bigs but the results were uninspiring: .253/.288/.359 in with only 17 extra base hits in 275 at bats. He only saw action in 9 games in 2016 before being designated for assignment and outrighted to Pawtucket, playing there for the next three-plus seasons to continue earning the rest of his guaranteed money. He was a star in AAA, making the All-Star team in both the 2017 IL and 2018 IL. However, by then his signing had become an embarrassment for Boston, so he remained buried in the minors while other younger players got the call to Boston when it came time to fill in briefly for an injured player.
In 2016, after being sent down by the Red Sox, he hit .263 with 2 homers in 103 games for the PawSox, but in 2017 he improved to .314 with 22 doubles and 15 homers, scoring 52 runs and driving in 53 in 87 games. In 2018, his batting line was a sparkling .319/.360/.416 in 117 games, with 56 runs and 59 RBIs. He was 30 by then, and regressed a bit in 2019, to .278/.321/.448 in 120 games, with 25 doubles and 17 homers in 120 games, scoring 63 runs and driving in 64. When the coronavirus pandemic put an end to spring training in 2020, he had been hitting .429 with the big league team, so there was little question that he could be a useful player somewhere in the majors even if the Red Sox had given up on him and were content to keep him hidden in the depths of Rhode Island. He did not play anywhere in 2020 because of the shutdown of the minor leagues, and in January 2021 signed a one-year contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Pro Baseball for $600,000.