Castellanos comes to Dodgers with power, but also strike-zone issues

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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