MINNEAPOLIS – Speedy Cuban centre-fielder Rusney Castillo is scheduled to hold a Miami-area showcase for interested teams on July 26, and he may present an interesting opportunity for the Toronto Blue Jays given their looming outfield crisis.
The 27-year-old is considered close to big-league ready and while Ben Badler of Baseball America reported last month that he isn’t a talent like Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Abreu, he still profiles as either an everyday player or fourth outfielder.
The Blue Jays are sure to attend the event, even if only for information purposes, and they’re going to need outfielders next season.
Centre-fielder Colby Rasmus and left-fielder Melky Cabrera are both eligible for free agency, leaving Jose Bautista as the only starting outfielder under club control for 2015.
New addition Nolan Reimold has a year of arbitration remaining before free agency while farmhands Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar are the only real alternatives in the system.
Prospect Dalton Pompey has made significant gains this season but his arrival isn't expected before late 2015, at the earliest.
Castillo, described as a plus runner and a solid line drive hitter, is represented by Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports and could provide another option for the Blue Jays.
Nearly two years on, Elisse Jensen is healthy and happy and her grandfather, single-A Dunedin Blue Jays manager Omar Malave, remains so grateful.
"She's doing great," Malave said this week during the all-star festivities. "She's three years old now, she's already gone twice to Boston to get checked out, she's growing up like a normal little girl and I can't thank everybody enough, the team in Toronto, the people in Toronto, because they came to help us and this is something I'm never going to forget."
In the summer of 2012, news broke that Elisse needed open-heart surgery, discovered through an X-ray taken as a precaution after her older brother, died needing a double-lung transplant. Her parents, Joe and Omarlyn Jensen, didn't have the money or insurance to fully cover the surgery.
A story by Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun brought the family's plight to the public's attention, and both fans and former players coached by Malave responded, helping the family get Elisse the surgery.
"That's something that's special," said Malave. "You don't think you're going to be in a situation like that, you lost a grandson and then my granddaughter had the surgery. To see the people reach out for you, that's something as a family we're never going to forget.
"Every day when I come home, pee-pa, that's what she calls me. She's a beautiful little girl and every time I see her run around, I get reminded of all the people that were behind us."
Dunedin Blue Jays manager Omar Malave graduated two top Blue Jays prospects to double-A New Hampshire this season in Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey, and here's his take on three players to watch currently at Dunedin:
OF Dwight Smith Jr.
2014 Stats: .287/.357/.425 with six homers, 42 RBIs in 89 games, 11 stolen bases
"He's doing a pretty good job. He was my leadoff hitter, when Pompey left, I moved him to third our hitter and he's looked better in that spot. He's making adjustments, being more disciplined at the plate, that's one thing he's working on every day. Defensively he's playing centre, he was playing left, he's looking a lot better in centre field, so he's coming along. I think he will hit, like his father, and the more he plays, the better he's going to be.”
SP Frank Viola III
2014 Stats: 3.86 ERA, 13 strikeouts in five starts with Lansing, 9.00 ERA, 1 strikeout in three starts with Dunedin (read more here)
"The first outing he threw six innings, the knuckleball was OK. The second one it wasn't that good but with knuckleball pitchers you don't know. I think his knuckleball is better than what he's shown so far. At times when I've seen him throw in the bullpen, he's had better stuff.”
C Santiago Nessy
2014 Stats: .234 .323 .341 with one homer, 25 RBIs in 60 games between Lansing and Dunedin, 15 doubles
"He looks good so far. He's been with me for about three weeks and he's doing a good job. Earlier he had to adjust to the league but he's done a pretty good job catching and throwing. Hitting, he hasn't hit the way we expect but he's going to be an offensive catcher.”