Castellanos hot, but Van Slyke might make better case for callup

Braves at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Chris Capuano, P

So, are you wondering about Alex Castellanos? If not, should you be?

The Dodgers’ hottest high-level minor-league hitter is Castellanos, who has a .483 on-base percentage and .757 slugging percentage for Albuquerque this year. His numbers have actually been better on the road, so while you have to take Pacific Coast League stats into account, it’s safe to say he’s been doing some of this on his own.

It’s hard to believe the lopsided Los Angeles lineup couldn’t use a guy like Castellanos, but the situation is a bit complicated. The 25-year-old has spent this year being converted to second base, which is not one of the Dodgers’ trouble spots right now. Mark Ellis has a .730 OPS (111 OPS+) and has been fielding well. You might make a case that Castellanos would provide an offensive boost, though I’m not so sure — but in any case, I’m not sure anyone would be ready for a double-play combo of Castellanos and Dee Gordon.

Castellanos hasn’t played a professional game at third base since 2009 — not even this year, when the Dodgers have had such uncertainty at the position. So I think you can dismiss the idea of him being called up to play there.

Left field, on the other hand, is a different story. Castellanos has spent most of his pro career in the outfield (albeit in right), while Juan Rivera is very quietly off to a start notably worse than the more publicized James Loney. Rivera has a .298 on-base percentage and .314 slugging percentage and provides none of Loney’s defensive value — indeed, Tony Gwynn Jr. comes off the bench at the earliest opportunity to replace Rivera.  In the heart of the order, whether batting between or after Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the 33-year-old Rivera is problematic to say the least, and when he comes out, that leaves Gwynn (or, in case of a double switch, a relief pitcher) in the meat of the lineup.

That’s not to say Rivera might not kick it into gear offensively starting tonight, but essentially we saw last summer the best that he can provide, and we know it doesn’t last long. He’s broken a .750 OPS in a full season once since 2006.

Now, we wouldn’t even be having a Rivera conversation had Jerry Sands not had a miserable March, which happens to have been followed by a miserable April (.316 OBP, .318 slugging so far with the Isotopes). Sands reminds us how hit-and-miss the leap from Triple-A stardom to the majors can be.

So the question is, do you call up Castellanos for a role that would push Rivera to the bench, where the latter might be a decent No. 1 pinch-hitter against lefties (not surprisingly, he hits them better than righties)? I think that depends on how you view the Dodgers’ future at second base. If Castellanos truly can learn to hold down that position, that would ultimately make him more valuable to the franchise, which is fairly thin in middle-infield talent. But when would he get to play there? Ellis is signed through the end of 2013, but he turns 35 in June. If he wears down, the Dodgers might need to replace him this summer, but if he pulls a Jamey Carroll, the Dodgers might not need a new second baseman for two years.

Here’s what I might recommend:

Though he’s not quite at Castellanos levels this year, 25-year-old Scott Van Slyke with little fanfare has followed his outstanding 2011 by starting strong in 2012: .443 OBP, .600 slugging and more walks than strikeouts. Try Van Slyke in left field, Rivera on the bench and Adam Kennedy on an outbound train (with Justin Sellers and Jerry Hairston Jr. picking up the infield time taken by Kennedy, whose signing to a guaranteed contract this past winter never made sense). That gives Van Slyke a taste of the majors and the Dodgers hope for increased production in left field and off the bench, while buying time for Castellanos to continue to grow acquainted with second base and for Sands to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Calling up Van Slyke has a pretty good chance of making the Dodgers better in the short term and the long term. What’s not to like?

(Footnote: Castellanos came to the Dodgers in exchange for Rafael Furcal, who is for the time being hale and hearty. Furcal leads the National League with eight doubles and has a .423 OBP and .523 slugging in 72 healthy-for-now plate appearances in 2012.)

  • Anonymous

    I agree 100% Jon. they need more offense. Rivera is not getting it done. 
    Castellanos will be better served in getting more playing time at 2B for now.  When Ellis starts fading later then he can be given a chance. 

  • http://twitter.com/nrmnbates Eric Enders

    I went to an Isotopes game the other night and both of these guys were relatively impressive, although Castellanos struck out several times (it was a 12-inning game) and Van Slyke made a notable flub in the outfield on the first batter of the night.

    Van Slyke, even though I knew his height and weight beforehand, surprised me with how friggin’ huge he is. He’s quite the physical specimen and it’s easy to see why Logan White was interested. Very impressive in a “how can a guy that big run that well?” sort of way. He’s also a bit Odenesque in that he looks like he’s at least 35.

    I’m inclined to think Castellanos might be our best bet at second base during the second half of this season. But Ellis isn’t stinking up the joint yet, so might as well wait until he does.

    • Anonymous

      I think now would be a good time to give Van Slyke some Dodger time in left field.  It would also send a good message to Fields and Castellanos that keeps them optimistic for their chances.

      I might hit Loney second for a week to get him going with better pitches.  Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Van Slyke would give the Dodgers a good LRLR heart of the lineup. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Any other Isotopes thoughts, Eric?

  • Christopher Staaf

    I am nearly at the point right now where anyone but Rivera plays LF and anyone but Uribe plays 3B. So yeah, bring up Van Slyke. He can’t be any worse than Rivera. I am also waiting for the other shoe to drop on Ellis. He’s had some good at bats but we can’t expect him be another Jamey Carroll. I also nominate Todd Coffey on that same train with Adam Kennedy. 

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       I’d cut loose MacDougal before Coffey.

      • Christopher Staaf

        I am sure we could find sufficient room for Mac on that train as well. 

  • WalldiverB

    I like this idea, Jon. Rivera was a terrible re-sign. Agent Ned essentially set the market price for aging, below-average veterans by giving him $4 million for 2012 as a reward for two good weeks with the Dodgers in 2011. We should be cutting our losses sooner rather than later.

  • Anonymous

    I’m still glad we’re not holding our breath as to when Furcal hurts himself.  It would be nice to get a young left fielder going, since next year we might have a young need at LF, 1st base, and second base, without many free agents at those positions who excite me.  I’m very glad we didn’t overpay for Ramirez at third, even though Uribe is worth nothing but a laugh (or cry) when he gets up to bat.

  • Anonymous

    Jon, anyway you can forward this post to the Dodger’s front office? 

  • Phil Gurnee

    I’d still like to see a strict platoon with TGJ playing LF against RHP, and Scott Van Slyke playing LF along with Juan playing 1st base against LHP. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Just to be clear, I’m not advocating cutting Rivera. His splits are decent against lefties.  

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      Yeah, I agree with that completely. I’m not quite so down on Rivera as some of y’all, but he should definitely not be an everyday starter at this point. I like him as another 1B option as well. The problem is that with Sands not developing as they’d hoped, they don’t have another power option; the bench is quite weak in that regard right now. I know Colletti said today he would like to add another bat in the next couple of months, but it seems they could do as you suggest and not have to trade for anyone: just call up SVS, Castle or Sands. At least after another month or so of full time at bats; I know they’d want whoever gets called up to not have to sit very often but playing 2 games out of 3 can be worked out.  

  • Anonymous

    You have my vote.  Perhaps Kennedy can share a berth with Uribe and give Josh Fields a little more than just hope.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Chipper Jones was a Dodger and Vin Scully fan growing up. http://bit.ly/I5K61C

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    ” On this date in 1958, Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese played in his 2,000th game and first baseman Gil Hodges belted his 300th career home run.” – Dodger press notes. 

  • Phil Gurnee

    Hmmm

    I thought Jose Cruz Junior was released long before July 30th.

    Anyway Juan Rivera is struggling. Jose Cruz Junior was released on
    July 30th, with an OPS of .734. Mainly because Andre Ethier had come up
    and made him obsolete.

    Will history repeat with any of Castle / Sands / Scott Van Slyke making Juan obsolete by this July 30th?
     

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

      If Sands isn’t careful, he’ll make HIMSELF obsolete by July 30.

  • Anonymous

    Jon:
    I always enjoy your writing no matter the subject, but pieces like this remind me that I first read DT for the baseball and your insights continue to hit the mark.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       Thanks, Wes!

  • Anonymous

    Castellanos is a left handed hitter?

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      No, he, Sands and Van Slyke are all righties. But that also means one of the latter two could also platoon with Loney at 1st. 

      I actually like Mark Ellis enough; his D is great and at least he’s contributing at the plate. I still have a slight preference for SVS over the others, especially since I’m not sure if they want Castellanos to play any 3rd (if he could, that would solve another problem.)

  • Christopher Staaf

    Jon, what is the pool going for Josh Fields coming up to the big team and Uribe finding his way to the DL for a long stretch? I say it will happen before Memorial Day. 

  • Anonymous

    I think with a little luck, Josh Fields can be as useful as a third baseman for the Dodgers as Phil Hiatt or Mike Edwards.

    • Anonymous

      I’d take Hiatt’s or Edwards’ bat over Uribe’s right now.  How long before you think they can be back in playing shape?

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        I wouldn’t. And unlike those guys, and Fields, at least Uribe plays good defense (as does Hairston).  People are so ready to cast aside Uribe, which I understand, that they both undervalue the importance of defense, and overvalue other terrible players. I’m still not convinced, after watching Fields bat numerous times in spring training (as well as field), that he’d be much of an upgrade. Though I know he does have potentially more power than Uribe, so I do understand the interest, too. 

        • Anonymous

          as Groucho said you are going to believe me or your lying eyes. There is no statistical evidence that Hairsten plays good defense on B-R esp. at 3rd.

          • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

             I generally had assumed he wasn’t that good at 3rd, based on that, because it was clearly his worst position historically. But when you add in the difficulty of the position, his numbers were actually much closer to at least league average than I had thought. And then yes, he’s played quite athletically lately which makes him look more spectacular than he may be. ;)

        • Anonymous

          I fully appreciate Uribe’s defense and could live with it as long as the rest of the offense can make up for it.  However, that doesn’t appear to be the case with this year’s team.  Additionally, Fields’ defense isn’t lacking, though perhaps not a Uribe’s level.

  • Anonymous

    I feel bad for Sands after a great finish last year. But what counts is today. Hopefully he can regain his hitting. I guess this means Sellers has basically no future as the everyday 2B?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

     I don’t think Sellers is considered to be more than a professional utility player, but if he can do well in spots, he’ll get more playing time.

    But right now he’s hitting a bit like Dee Gordon without the speed. .576 OPS in his career so far.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Release for Jackie Robinson film “42,” with Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, is 4/12/14. http://bit.ly/IkqALN Three days before Jackie Robinson Day

  • Anonymous

    I always liked Blake DeWitt…..

  • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

    15/12 K/BB rate and a .220 BABIP. Power will need to come up, but he’s doubling his walk rate while striking out less, so it could turn out to be an overall positive.

  • KT

    Looking forward to my 1st game with Vinny this year…it won’t be long now

    • KT

      well hear my 1st vinny commercial, not there yet

      There we go

    • T.M. Brown

      Same here. And it’s really tortuous to go from Vin introducing the game to Lyons doing “analysis” for those five minutes. It’s like they’re trying to do Ludovico technique for announcing to wean us off Vin. Also, I know everyone here has probably had that moment but I’m beginning to realize how really viscerally attached I am to Vin. 

      • KT

        I did a double take at your handle thinking…What is my sister doing on DT?

  • Anonymous

    “Coffey said he expects to pitch in Minor League rehab games Wednesday and Friday, then be activated on Sunday, when the Dodgers will face the same roster dilemma they had on April 14,”

  • KT

    Come on DP

  • Anonymous

    Somebody please, please tell Vin to stop marveling that Capuano “graduated Phi Beta Kappa” from Duke University. Phi Beta Kappa is a fraternity, and is different from graduating Summa Cum Laude. And joining a fraternity is certainly not as impressive as bouncing back from two Tommy John surgeries to enjoy a career as a Major League Baseball player. He did the same thing his last start, but I woulda thunk a producer or someone woulda clarified that for him.

    • Anonymous

      Phi Beta Kappa is technically a fraternity, but really it is an honor society masquerading as a fraternity.  You have to have some set academic achievement.  Probably not strictly correct to say he “graduated Phi Beta Kappa” (whereas it is to say he “graduated summa cum laude”) but the point being that he was academically very successful in college is effectively the same.

  • KT

    Come on Capuano

    Making the inning hard on himself

  • Anonymous

    Well… Bend but don’t break.

    • KT

      yea but now his pitch count is up there…27

  • Anonymous

    phew

  • KT

    Nice Dee
     
    Make it a double now

  • KT

    Nice…did any of you notice he slide feet 1st this time?

  • Anonymous

    Huh… Feet first again

  • Anonymous

    The good thing about a game like yesterday’s is that it gives the pen a rest – or at least, it gives the pen guys you actually want to use a rest.

  • KT

    That ball was way outside Mark…Ball 4 now instead of 1st and 2nd and no outs, we now have 3rd with 1 out

  • Anonymous

    Those kinds of at bats are why Mark Ellis was a terrific signing.

    • KT

      yea but he had a walk

    • KT

      So because of Ellis’s at-bat instead of 3-0 with two outs we end up 1-0 inning over because of rivera’s DP

      • Anonymous

        It’s not Mark’s fault Rivera grounded into a double play. Is there no value in getting the runner to 3rd with 1 out? Suppose Kemp had subsequently flown out. Because of Ellis advanced him, Dee woulda scored. Had Ellis walked instead, no run.

        • KT

          why have an out when you can have base loaded with no outs then a 2 rbi single by dre puts it 1st and 3rd still no outs, rivera dp still scores a run

          Oh I liked the signing just hated the at-bat

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Bat-control master Mark Ellis swung at ball four the previous pitch. 

    • KT

      I agree…he usually wonderful with the bat but because of his swing at ball 4 cost us

  • KT

    Dre!!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Boy Juan Rivera really is slow.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Gordon on third base, one out, count 3-1. Kemp takes a borderline pitch for strike two, then another pitch for ball four.  That’s the adjustment I wanted to see from Sunday, when I saw him swing at a couple of bad pitches.

    Kemp didn’t get a chance to steal, though – Ethier singled in the run on the first pitch.

  • KT

    now it’s tie

  • Anonymous

    Bob, were you saying something about David Ross a bit earlier?

  • KT

    Flashes of brilliance…it’s the routine that kills him

  • KT

    Let’s get that run back boys

  • KT

    Nice James

  • KT

    Did James just run that stop sign

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Can’t spell Uribe without RBI… amiright guys?

    • KT

      I usually spell it with RIB which means giving him a hard time
       
      Nice AJ!!

      • T.M. Brown

        Or RIBs of the all-you-can-eat variety—looks like he knows what those are for sure. 

        • KT

          ^_^

        • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

          By the look of his trot home I’m guessing he went with just the one rack for pre-game today.

          • KT

            funny

  • KT

    Now this inning is going the way the top of the 1st should have gone
     
    Come on Dee

  • KT

    That was almost a DP

  • foul tip

    Gameday says Ross hit an 86 MPH sinker.  Why does Gameday “think” it was a sinker if Ross hit it out?  How would it “know”? Maybe it started to sink but Ross interrupted the “sink”?

    Reminds me of reading a while back that sinkers that don’t sink don’t go anywhere but over a fence…

    Meanwhile, in other news here on Sinker Thoughts….maybe it should be Stinker Sinker Thoughts?

  • KT

    Vinny just call David Ross - Brian Mccan then recovered quickly

    • Anonymous

      It was a pretty good recovery.

      • KT

        yea there was no hesitation at all

  • Anonymous

    He missed the front on the tag.  That CS was actually closer than it looked.

  • KT

    we are just stealing runs from ourselves…but I don’t blame Dee, it just a fact…I encourage him to run everytime

  • Anonymous

    Fibonacci progression going on here with the scoring – which totally works in our favour.

  • Anonymous

    Matt puts it away, cue the Blimpie spot.

  • KT

    stolen base hit by prado…Matt still scorching the ball

  • KT

    Dre missed an HR by a foot maybe 3 with Haywards’ height

    • Anonymous

      David Ross missed a basehit by 3 feet as well.

      • KT

        I’m thinking it was closer than that but his HR definitely was over that much ^_^

  • KT

    Good start James

    • KT

      Was that a hit and run with Uribe and Loney?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    I don’t know what’s more crazy: A hit-and-run with Loney on base and Uribe at the plate … or that it worked. 

    • KT

      My thought exactly

  • Anonymous

    Oh my Juan!

  • KT

    Love those seeing eye singles

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Hey look, we can play small ball too!

  • Anonymous

    The bottom feeding off Jair.

    • KT

      oh your just full of them tonight ^_^

  • KT

    Beautiful bunt

  • Anonymous

    4 runs, 9 hits and none of it from Kemp.  Good to see others get in the act.

  • KT

    just far enough Dee

  • Anonymous

    Juan looked like he was running in sand.

    • Anonymous

      Like me @ Ft. Ord in my youth. Glad to see there’s a Dodger player I can identify with after all these years.

  • T.M. Brown

    Juan looks like an especially swift and large penguin running down the line off of Dee’s SF. 

    • Anonymous

      Emperor Juan!

  • KT

    Nice play James…almost a self defense play

  • Anonymous

    And the high-wire act continues. Will DM let Capuano pitch the 6th?

  • KT

    well that just even things out with Prado in Kemps mind

  • T.M. Brown

    Whoops!

    • Jibin Park

      Double whoops!

  • Anonymous

    Now I’ve seen everything.

  • KT

    What happened on that play…my god that was terrible but Ethier was safe

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

       He sure did look safe didn’t he? The ump seemed to want to call someone out to make it all symmetrical. Ethier had a legitimate beef on that call. Doesn’t make up for the goofy baserunning of course.

  • Anonymous

    What was that nonsense?

  • Anonymous

    Loved Vin’s reaction (less so what happened)

  • Anonymous

    That’s about as awful a combo baserunning blunder as I’ve seen since the Dodgers / Mets playoff game getting both guys thrown out at home

  • Anonymous

    Every team has to have an identity. Looks like the Dodgers are certainly establishing themselves as Dodgers by consistently trying to dodge gloves after making stupid baserunning errors. 

    • Anonymous

      Hope they got that out of their systems.  And that it doesn’t come back to haunt us.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Separate from the comically bad baserunning there, the Dodgers have had some nice at bats tonight.
    Taking what was given them, going with the pitch, going to right field, not always on such bad pitches. Good to see Jimmy Loney and Johnny Uribe contributing as well.  Cappy has done some tightrope walking but has mostly pitched pretty well.  3 innings still to go.

  • KT

    Wow they touched up Josh…I’m suprised but you know it had to happen

  • KT

    Kemp leading off an inning again…that seemed like it happened a lot today

  • http://twitter.com/DodgerTony Anthony Forkush

    I assume a Coffey exchange for McDougal is in the works. At the moment, until Ethier solidly proves he can hit lefties on a regular basis, Rivera is the team’s “best” right handed option in the four hole on platoon nights. While he is off to a poor start, we really don’t have anyone else, with the exception of Uribe, who is a pretty decent four for four this evening as he fights for his job.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      While Rivera’s splits against lefties (333/429/333) minus that slugging (ouch) are nice even this year, Ethier’s numbers against lefties so far are pretty good as well (292/346/458). Also Ethier has 10 RBI against lefties so far compared to Rivera’s 3. Though he is definitely an improvement when spelling James at first base (182/250/364) against lefties, again minus the slugging percentage.

  • KT

    URIBE!!!! 4-4

  • Anonymous

    I think the Astros got the Dodgers mad yesterday. And they are taking it out on the Braves.

    • KT

      I like that…just as long as they keep it up for the whole homestand

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Seriously, who is this Uribe guy??

  • KT

    An Elbert sighting

  • KT

    Well it was a good game
     
    Capuano did well even though he walked a tight rope
     
    The offense was great especially Uribe and Loney…Can we hope? (for Uribe not loney…loney’s been doing well)
     
    And Elbert did well for not working so much
     
    Have a good night all

  • T.M. Brown

    Does anyone have “Kendry Morales” going through their heads when the OF trio does their jump? I know there’s plate out there but….

    • Anonymous

      Interesting thought, but I’d rather stop the dog-piling on the hero of the game.  And that issue is hardly confined to just the Dodgers.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    As long as Uribe hits the ball in fair territory, he’s doing exactly what he’s being overpaid to do.

  • http://twitter.com/TopesWriter Chris Jackson

    As the actual Isotopes beat writer, thought I’d toss in my two cents: 
    Castellanos is not ready for the big leagues. He can chew up and spit out the lousy pitching in the PCL, but he is very prone to chasing stuff on the outside part of the plate. Big-league pitchers will eat him alive, a la Sands last year with the inside pitches. The good news is Castellanos knows he’s not ready. I asked him if he’d heard the rumors people were tossing about when Uribe was hurting, and he told me everyone’s getting ahead of themselves. He knows for his development that a full season (or at least close to a full season) at Triple-A is a must. And no, folks, he’s not going to solve the 3B dilemma. The Dodgers are focused on him playing 2B, period.

    Van Slyke, besides being one of the funniest guys on the team (his stories about life in baseball as a kid are outstanding), is a solid hitter and someone I could see going up to the big leagues in the second half. He can hit to all fields, he will take pitches at the plate and defensively he seems fine in the outfield (first base, well, there’s a reason the Dodgers moved him off there this spring). 

    Sands and the Topes’ coaching staff are confident he can turn things around, but lordy, that boy seems stubborn. They tell him “lay off the first pitch” and he goes up and swings away from the start. In most games his early plate appearances are hard to watch, then he starts to settle down. I think if anything he’s trying too hard; he’s overthinking at the plate. It’s frustrating for everyone involved, and you want to root for the guy since he is a good kid. You just wonder that if he can’t turn things around in the next month or so what the Dodgers are going to do. They want him to succeed, they need him to succeed, but right now … 

    Oh, and best bet for first Tope to be called up: Scott Rice. The kid is legit as a lefty reliever. Might spare you all from MacDougal/Coffey sooner rather than later. 

    — Chris Jackson (@TopesWriter)

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      Belated thanks for the first-hand thoughts (Isotope  Thoughts) :)

      I guess SVS is a reminder that, no, not everyone can play 1st base well. Back to the OF with ya!