Top Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo has defected from Cuba in hopes of playing in Major League Baseball, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America.
It will still be some time before an American team will be able to sign Castillo. He will first need to establish residency in another country (he is rumored to currently be in the Dominican Republic), then be declared a free agent by MLB officials and have the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control allow him to sign. All-in-all, it could still be several months before he is able to negotiate a deal.
Castillo, 26, has spent five years playing for Ciego de Avila in the top Cuban league, Serie Nacional. He began his professional career as an infielder, playing second and third base. By his third season, however, he was a full-time outfielder.
He had an outstanding 2011-12 season, hitting .342/.408/.574 over 113 games with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases. He struck out just 49 times in 448 plate appearances. His power took a dip last season, though he still got on base at a .377 clip and stole 15 bags in 68 games.
Before officially defecting, Castillo had been suspended from the Cuban National team as well as Ciego de Avila for a "violation of the code of ethics of revolutionary baseball" which, presumably, was due to a failed attempt to leave Cuba previously.