HAVANA TIMES — Outfielder Rusney Castillo, 26, is the latest Cuban baseball player beginning the fast-track road for a possible Major League Baseball contract on the free agent market.
While still unconfirmed, his apparent escape from Cuba comes after he was suspended months ago from playing with his team Ciego de Avila.
Baseball America writer Ben Badler puts Castillo in the Dominican Republic from where he would train and show off his talent to scouts from MLB teams while awaiting permission from the US Treasury Deptartment to play ball in the United States.
In his last season with Ciego de Avila (2011-2012), the swift Castillo hit .332 with 16 homers and 22 stolen bases in 29 attempts. The season before hit .324 with 18 homers and 29 base steals in 35 attempts.
In his best international effort playing for Team Cuba, Castillo hit .512 at the 2011 Panama World Cup with eight extra base hits including two homers. At the Harlem, Holland Baseball Week in July 2012 he hit for a .333 average.
“Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic frame at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. His best tool is his speed, as he’s an above-average runner and one of the better base stealers in Cuba,” said Badler.
“He’s More of a doubles hitter than a big home run threat, Castillo puts a charge into the ball with a line-drive right-handed swing, though he can get long to the ball at times and some scouts think he’s prone to chasing pitches off the plate. Primarily a center fielder in Cuba, Castillo has also played some second and third base, so his versatility could be a draw for some teams. He’s an aggressive, high-energy player, though some teams see him as a fourth outfielder,” said Badler
A pattern has developed especially over the last decade whereby Cuban baseball stars and top prospects attempt to leave the island illegally and are caught and suspended from playing in the Cuban league. With no choice left to them to continue in their profession, they then succeed at a future attempt escaping to a neighboring country.
The phenomenon has also included athletes in soccer, volleyball, athletics and boxing.