Alex Castellanos has already been of great value to the Dodgers, and he has a chance to be much more.
The Dodgers were in an unfamiliar spot at the 2011 trading deadline. Sellers for the first time in the Ned Colletti era, the Dodgers had a few players with no-trade clauses they were discussing last July. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was the most coveted Dodger asset, but he informed the club that he would exercise his no-trade clause, preferring instead to finish his contract with Los Angeles. The other potential trade piece was Rafael Furcal, but the shortstop had the killer combination of being expensive (making $12 million), being hurt, and being unproductive.
Furcal had played in just 37 of the Dodgers' 106 games last year and was hitting .197/.272/.248 on July 30. But he had the great timing to hit .364/.500/.500 with two steals in six games in the week leading up to the trade deadline, providing just enough "if this guy was remotely healthy, he could help us" fodder for interested teams. The Dodgers had Dee Gordon ready to take over at shortstop, so trading the pending free agent Furcal was a no-brainer.
The St. Louis Cardinals were interested, and the Dodgers were able to save roughly $1.4 million in dealing Furcal, who by that point had become a sunk cost. But St. Louis sent Castellanos, too, who was in the midst of a breakout season in Double A.
Castellanos was hitting .319/.379/.562 with Springfield of the Texas League at the time of the trade, then finished the season even stronger, hitting .322/.406/.603 for Chattanooga. He finished the season with 35 doubles and 23 home runs, and was third in Double A in runs scored (102), fourth in slugging percentage (.573), and fifth in extra-base hits (66).
The 6-foot, 195-pound Castellanos, who was drafted by St. Louis in the 10th round of the 2008 draft out of Division II Belmont-Abbey College in North Carolina, has walked in 7.3% of his plate appearances in the last two seasons while striking out 21.9% of the time. The 25-year old said he is working on approving his approach.
"I'm an aggressive type hitter," said Castellanos. "I'm just trying to be more patient, get a pitch to hit, get my walks up."
Knowing he was headed for his first big league camp, Castellanos said he did a lot of training and speed work during the offseason. So far the hard work has paid off, as Castellanos has four hits in seven at-bats in the early going, with home runs in each of the last two days.
Castellanos played in the outfield exclusively in the last two seasons, but played 76 games at third base and 55 games at second base in 2008-2009. The Dodgers sent him to the Arizona Fall League last year to revive that positional flexibility, but he was shut down after hitting .379/.471/.828 in eight games after suffering an oblique injury.
Manager Don Mattingly said Castellanos would play second base more than the outfield this spring before determining his position for the season, presumably in Triple A. "We need to see if he can play [second]," Mattingly said.
If Castellanos can stick at second base in the major leagues, that Furcal trade will continue to pay dividends for years to come.
Castellanos and his family founded Ozzie's Angel Foundation, to teach children to swim and promote safe boating practices in honor of his late brother, who died in a boating accident in 2007.
"I do what I can to help teach the kids when I'm home," Castellanos told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "The foundation was started by our family because teaching kids to swim was my brother's passion. We also want to educate people about safe boating practices."
Castellanos was added to the 40-man roster last November. He has three option years remaining, one of which will be used this season.
|2009 (A / Hi A)
|2010 (High A)
|2012 Projections - Age 25 Season|
Other than a possible September callup, it doesn't seem likely that Castellanos will see time in the major leagues this season. I'll guess that he gets 22 plate appearances after rosters expand, and will hit .250/.318/.350.
What is your guess for Castellanos in 2012? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, and anything else you wish to guess.