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Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada and the perils of prospect rankings

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Rusney Castillo
Rusney Castillo
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Recently I was asked why I had Boston Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo one spot ahead of fellow Cuban import Yoan Moncada on the Top 175 Prospects list for 2015 as well as the revised version of the Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2015 list.

Several things play in here but ultimately it comes down to this: the lists focus on closeness to the majors and risk profile as well as long-term potential. It is a hybrid approach and sometimes in unusual cases it gets tricky. Cuban defectors are unusual cases and I'm never quite sure where to rank them. Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu for example, was rated as a Grade A- and slotted at 11th best prospect hitter entering 2014. Entering 2013 I had Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler at #23 and Dodgers masher Yasiel Puig at #29.

When working with limited information I am generally cautious. In this case, both Castillo and Moncada are at Grade A-, but Castillo is one slot ahead on the lists basically because he is ready for the majors now and has hit well when exposed to big league pitchers. Moncada is eight years younger and will need more time.

Sample size is a peril of course: Castillo has just a handful of at-bats last fall and this spring, but he's looked very good in those at-bats. Moncada hasn't gotten to play yet so we have less insight into how his tools and skills will translate into pro baseball. Castillo has a small sample. Moncada doesn't have one.

Another way to put it: I think Moncada's physical tools are better than Castillo's, but there is a much better feel in my view for how Castillo's tools will translate than how Moncada's will. On pure upside, I would put Moncado slightly ahead. But with an approach that looks at both projection and present knowledge, tools and skills, risk and safety, Castillo moved a hair ahead.

That could flip around of course once we see Moncada in games that count, but I wanted to clarify the thinking process. Your mileage may vary.