Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What do the Dodgers have in Alex Castellanos?

When the Dodgers traded Rafael Furcal for an unknown minor-league outfielder in the Cardinals' organization, not many folks gave it a second thought.

However, Alex Castellanos' 32-game stint with the Chattanooga Lookouts was impressive and makes me wonder if the Dodgers might have somehow gotten a viable prospect in the deal.

Castellanos, 25, is a fringe-prospect age-wise, but his .322/.406/.603 line with the Lookouts is enticing. He was named a Double-A All-Star today.

With the Cardinals, he was pretty much an afterthought. He didn't rank the their Top 30 from Baseball America headed into the 2011 season.

His walk rate is concerning, never having better than a 7.4 percent rate coming into 2011. With the Cardinals in 2011, he walked 6.1 percent of the time. When he was traded to the Dodgers, his walk rate jumped to a respectable 10.1 percent. He also reduced his strikeout rate dramatically -- from 24 percent to 16.8 percent.

Now, he did play just 32 games with the Lookouts, so these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. His Arizona Fall League performance is something to be encouraged by, though. Before he got hurt, Castellanos hit .379 with three home runs, 13 RBI and a 1.289 OPS.

Word broke early this off-season saying the Dodgers would like to try him at first base. I understand wanting to move him from the outfield because of the surplus number of outfielders the Dodgers have right now. But he also has experience at second- and third base in the minor leagues. Both positions -- particularly third base -- are weak spots in the system.

If he could at all stick at either position, his value would increase.

He's likely to start in Triple-A in 2012, which is just where he should be. If the Dodgers suffer some setbacks on the injury front, Castellanos could be one of the first players in line for a call-up.

Scouts say Castellanos is playing above his skill level. Looking at his career numbers, I'm inclined to agree. Before 2010, the only times he had an OPS better than .800 was in his first two seasons in Rookie ball and Low-A ball.

Bottom line, it's not exactly known what the Dodgers have in Castellanos. They could have a utility player, they could have a starting corner position player, they could have a second baseman or they could have a Four-A player.

This season will determine whether his late-2011 performance was a sign of him turning a corner or just a fluke.

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