Dodger Thoughts: Alex Castellanos

Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Dodgers outrighted pitchers John Ely and Carlos Monasterios to Triple-A Albuquerque in order to make room for five first-timers on the 40-man roster.

Two came at the trading deadline: outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitcher Steven Fife.
  • Alex Castellanos, the 25-year-old outfielder who came from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal and had a combined .958 OPS in 534 plate appearances at Double-A.
  • Stephen Fife, a 25-year-old righty who came from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade and had a combined 3.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 137 innings at Double-A.
  • Chris Withrow, a 2007 first-round draft choice who had a 4.20 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Michael Antonini, a 26-year-old who came from the Mets organization last winter in exchange for Chin-Lung Hu and had a 4.01 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 148 innings as a starter at Chattanooga.
  • Josh Wall, a 2005 second-round draft choice who had a 3.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings as a reliever at Double-A Chattanooga.

After spending all of 2010 with the Dodgers, Monasterios was injured most of 2011, pitching only four innings with the Isotopes. Ely never recovered his Elymania form of 2010, though he was mostly effective in very short spurts with the Dodgers in 2011.

Both players could easily remain in the organization for 2012, depending on the interest they receive elsewhere.

For more on the state of the 40-man roster, as well as some names that were left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, check out this post and this post from True Blue L.A.
Walter O' Malley can be seen receiving a signed baseball from Don Larsen after the Yankee pitcher's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, in this unpublished Life Magazine photo. I found it after looking through this unpublished photo gallery of candids from the 1961 Yankees, that I visited thanks to a link from Baseball Musings.

Elsewhere ...
  • Former Dodger Tracy Woodson, who can be seen bear-hugging Kirk Gibson after his 1988 World Series home run, is now the baseball coach at Valparaiso. Phil Stanton of College Baseball Insider has an interview with him. If you want more, here's a 2008 conversation with Woodson.
  • A left oblique strain ended Alex Castellanos' Arizona Fall League season, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Gurnick now writes that the Dodgers have considered moving Castellanos to first base, which seems more feasible but less sensible all at once. Not sure what to make of that.
  • Former Dodger executive Kim Ng will interview for the Angels' general manager job. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com makes the case that she would be a great hire for the Angels.
  • Bronx Banter founder Alex Belth published a guest piece from his brother Ben on playing ball with his son in the suburbs.

Meet me at the fair

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
8:53
AM PT
As I wrestle with the question, are the St. Louis Cardinals really going to take two barely qualified teams to the World Series in six seasons?
Alex Castellanos

"... A 25-year-old right-handed hitter, he has mediocre tools but has put up big numbers this year. His plate discipline needs work, and despite the line at Springfield I'd rate him a Grade C prospect at this point, with a chance to be a bench asset."
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

Tim Federowicz

"... Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn't likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34 percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors."
– Keith Law, ESPN.com

"... The best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, with the catch-and-throw skills to be a big league regular. His pure arm strength is average, but it plays up because he has smooth footwork and a quick release. He has thrown out 36 percent of basestealers this year in Double-A, and also has shown off his receiving ability by committing just one passed ball. Federowicz's bat will determine how much he plays when he gets to the majors. He ability to hit for average and control the strike zone is decent, and he has some gap power. He runs well for a catcher and has more athleticism than most backstops."
Baseball America

"... A top-flight defensive catcher, he has a strong throwing arm, plenty of mobility, and excellent leadership skills behind the plate. A weak stick has kept him off prospect lists. ... He probably won't hit enough to be a major league regular, but he could last a long time as a defense-oriented reserve. He turns 24 this week. Grade C."
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

"... He's a very good catch-and-throw guy, with a quick release and strong arm. He's also worked very hard to improve his blocking. At the plate, he uses a middle-of-the-field approach and has average pull power. Most see him as a defensive-oriented backup at the big league level, but he could become an everyday guy if he hits a bit more than expected."
– Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

Stephen Fife

"... Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he'll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball."
– Law

"... Didn't start pitching regularly until he was a high school senior, but after three years of college ball at Utah he worked himself into the third round of the 2008 draft. His best pitch is an 88-93 mph fastball that features good sink. He lacks an above-average secondary pitch, with his changeup (which has some splitter action) ranking ahead of his curveball. His control and command are average, and it's more likely that he develops into a middle reliever than a starter."
– Baseball America

"... His stuff is average across the board: 88-92 MPH sinking fastball, average changeup and curveball, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball low in the zone. ... In the majors, he projects as a fifth starter or more probably a long/middle reliever. I've see him as a sleeper in the past but he's never quite woken up. Grade C.
– Sickels

"... Fife is a solid right-handed starter with a three-pitch mix. An Eastern League All-Star this season, Fife can run his fastball up to 93 mph with some sink. His curveball can be an out pitch, and he's also got a pretty good feel for a changeup. He mixes his pitches well and can change speeds, but he also has enough velocity to put hitters away at times."
– Mayo

Juan Rodriguez

"... Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch and below-average command and control – a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy, either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in the Dodgers' pockets, this (trade) doesn't make a ton of sense to me, as they didn't get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange."
– Law

"... He still has room for projection in his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, and he already throws 93-95 mph coming out of the bullpen, enabling him to rank second among South Atlantic League relievers with 13.42 strikeouts per nine innings. There's a good deal of effort in Rodriguez's delivery, which hampers his control and command. His slider and changeup are fringy pitches, so his ceiling is as a late-inning reliever rather than as a starter."
– Baseball America

"... His command is spotty and his slider is mediocre, but his 92-95 MPH fastball has movement and his K/IP ratio is excellent. He needs to sharpen up his command and add polish, but he's an interesting arm at least. Grade C, but has some upside."
– Sickels

"... Rodriguez is a raw, tall and lanky right-hander with plenty of arm strength. Pitching out of the bullpen for Greenville in the South Atlantic League, he's shown plus velocity, up to 98-99 mph at times. He's got a slider that's below average, and he's working to develop a better feel for an offspeed pitch. He generally throws strikes, but he needs to find more consistency with his fastball command. That, and development of his offspeed stuff, will be key. But the power and arm strength that many teams covet are definitely there."
– Mayo
Outfielder Alex Castellanos, in the midst of a strong season in Double-A for Springfield in the Texas League, is coming to the Dodger organization to complete the Rafael Furcal trade, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Castellanos turns 25 next week, which puts him on the older side for Double-A, but he has made progress since being drafted out of Belmont Abbey College in 2008. This season, he has a .379 on-base percentage and .562 slugging percentage (sixth in the Texas League) with 19 homers, 21 doubles and 10 steals in 11 attempts in 93 games. He was named a starter in the Texas League All-Star Game (the story cited states that Castellanos, who played a little infield at the outset of his pro career but has been full-time in the outfield since 2010, has a "laser arm" in right).

The main problem with Castellanos is plate discipline: He has 24 walks and 94 strikeouts this season. In 384 minor-league games, he has 94 walks and 366 strikeouts. Those ratios are huge warning signs as far as major-league success goes.

Here's what Future Redbirds had to say about him in April:
... Castellanos is off to a huge start in 2011, but at this point it looks slightly unsustainable because he has hit home runs on 16.1% of his balls hit in the air. (Around 6.5% is average.)

Looking at the stats, it is pretty clear what type of player Castellanos is so far in his career. He will swing for the fences and is happy to go down swinging while trying. He will not try to work a walk and his OBP will not be much more than his (batting average). But when he hits the ball it will go very far and he has the ability to stretch a single into a double and double into a triple which helps his slugging numbers. Once on base, he also has dangerous speed to steal bases at will. Castellanos is an intriguing prospect based on his power and speed numbers, but will need to cut down on the strikeouts and add some walks to really push his prospect status to the next level.

Castellanos would appear to be an offensive upgrade over Kyle Russell, the Dodgers' 25-year-old Chattanooga outfielder who is at .331/.473 with 36 walks and 129 strikeouts this year. Here's how Castellanos compares to Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson, who were 22 at Double-A in 2010, not 24 as Castellanos is now. I've also thrown in former Dodger Xavier Paul and former Cardinal Colby Rasmus for added context.

Castellanos (24 in 2011): 93 games, .379/.562, 24 walks/94 strikeouts
Paul (22 in 2007): 118 games, .366/.429, 48 walks/112 strikeouts
Rasmus (20 in 2007): 128 games, .381/.551, 70 walks/108 strikeouts
Robinson (22 in 2010): 120 games, .404/.438, 73 walks/125 strikeouts
Sands (22 in 2010): 68 games, .360/.529, 33 walks/62 strikeouts

Take all these comparisons with a grain of salt, of course. The numbers for the Dodger minor-leaguers came in the Southern League.

One final comparison: Because this trade reminds me so much of the Milton Bradley-Andre Ethier trade, in that it involves getting rid of a player whom everyone knew had no future in Los Angeles for a Double-A outfielder, here's how Ethier had performed leading up to that exchange. With Midland of the Texas League at age 23, Ethier had a .385 on-base percentage and .497 slugging percentage with 48 walks and 93 strikeouts.

Keeping in mind that getting Ethier for Bradley was at worst a minor miracle for the Dodgers and arguably a major one, Castellanos almost seems like a respectable exchange for Furcal. Unfortunately, being a little older than Ethier with less plate discipline doesn't help Castellanos' case. Baseball America is even less sanguine:
Castellanos was having a career year in Double-A (he ranks eighth in the Texas League in hitting, fifth in homers and fourth in runs scored), but he'll turn 25 on Thursday and his tools don't live up to his performance. He has some pop but he has a long swing and chases too many pitches out of the strike zone. His speed and defensive tools are fringy, and the former Belmont Abbey (N.C.) second baseman fits best in right field. Despite his 2011 numbers, he doesn't have the bat to profile as a big league regular there. He signed for $70,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2008.

If that seems disappointing, consider that the alternative would have been that the Dodgers would be paying Furcal anyway while getting nothing in return. (MLB Trade Rumors calculated earlier in July that Furcal will not be a Type A or Type B free agent this offseason).

Knowing that Furcal could break down again at any moment physically the way Bradley could be counted on to mentally, it was always unlikely that the Dodgers were going to get a can't-miss prospect for him. But it will be understandable that some will point to Ethier and wonder why not.

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