KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Despair not, Red Sox fans. Help is on the way.
No fewer than five Boston affiliates made the playoffs this season, a jarring contrast to a big league club that tumbled all the way from World Series champs to the AL East basement, 19 games under .500 going into the finale of a four-game set with Kansas City on Sunday.
But Double-A Portland, High-A Salem, rookie-level Gulf Coast and Dominican Summer leagues all played in their postseason, a terrific year for anyone's farm system. Topping it all was Triple-A Pawtucket, which won the 2014 Governors' Cup on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory over Durham in the fifth and deciding game.
Cuban defector Rusney Castillo had two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in the title game, and must think American baseball is easy. In 10 minor league games since signing a $72.5 million contract, Castillo helped two affiliates win championships, Pawtucket and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
Named MVP of the series was PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, who won the NCAA batting title with a .467 average at Yale, was 10 for 22 with a home run as Pawtucket won their second Governors' Cup in three years.
"Very encouraging," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Castillo, in his 10 minor league games, has collected 11 hits in 37 at-bats with four doubles, three RBIs, four walks and two stolen bases. He also scored four runs.
Castillo will join the Red Sox when they're in Pittsburgh this week and probably make his major league debut. In the meantime, the front office is trying to decide winter ball assignments for what appears to be a stable full of prospects.
"The one guy we've talked about extensively has been Castillo," said Farrell. "He's even yet to get here. But we definitely want to get additional at-bats for him in the offseason."
Also encouraging was pitcher Keith Couch. Making his first Triple-A start, the right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks in 6 2-3 innings in the title game.
Tasting success bodes well for young, developing players, Farrell said.
"Regardless of the level, when you're the last team standing I think there's significance to it," he said. "To walk away after a long season, a lot of work done, congratulations to them.
While the effect varies from player to player, Farrell says the experience of winning is critical in a young player's development.
"Even at that level there's a sense of teamwork for sure, and a sense of accomplishment by that group. You're going to get a different feel, with a greater sense of urgency because you're playing for something specific. All those things have a benefit. The attitude and the focus that players will bring to the field hopefully when they advance to the next level."
He also figures that playing for minor league championships helps youngsters get a focus on the big picture.
"There's so much debate, depending on who you talk to, that individual development is the priority," he said. "But I think it's important to develop players in a winning environment. And when you're able to strike that balance, hopefully you produce a player that comes to the major leagues that is understanding of the sense of urgency and understanding that it isn't just about them and what they might get out of becoming a major league player."