Orioles maintain interest in Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo

The Orioles will be among the teams attending Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo’s workout July 26 at the University of Miami.

The session is termed a “showcase” for interested clubs.

Castillo, 26, defected to the Dominican Republic in December and the Orioles scouted him two months later. They want to take another look at him.

Castillo, listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 lbs., has spent the majority of his career in center field, but he also has played the corner positions on a more limited basis. He’s been compared to the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, except with more power.

Castillo played in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top professional league, for the past five seasons and batted .319/.383/.516 with 51 home runs and 226 RBIs in 360 games. He registered a .342/.408/.574 slash line with 27 stolen bases in 2011-12.

The Cuban national team and Serie Nacional later suspended Castillo for a violation of the code of ethics of revolutionary baseball, presumably for attempting to defect.

Baseball America’s Bed Badler provided the following report on Castillo:

“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.”

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.

Any team that signs Castillo as a free agent can do so without it counting against their international signing bonus money.

The Orioles previously signed Cuban outfielders Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez, rated among their top position prospects. Urrutia is close to returning to Triple-A Norfolk after recovering from sports hernia surgery, and Alvarez will join him this week after beginning the season at Double-A Bowie and playing in the Futures Game.

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