2013 Dodgers in Review #23: RF Alex Castellanos

November 23, 2013 at 4:07 am | Posted in Alex Castellanos | Leave a comment

90topps_alexcastellanos.167/.167/.389 18pa 1hr .237 wOBA 0.9-0.3 fWAR (inc.)

2013 in brief: Clearly passed on the depth chart and found little opportunity in Los Angeles.

2014 status: Traded to Boston during the World Series.

Previous: 2012

******

Another guest review from the commentator brigade. This time, we welcome DK’s unique brand of thinking. Thanks, DK.

When Alex Castellanos was traded by the Dodgers to the Red Sox for Jeremy Hazelbaker (who?) on October 23 (six days after he was designated for assignment), the Dodgers faithful (understandably) yawned and shrugged. After all, who cares about a 27-year-old minor league journeyman who finished his brief career as a Dodger 29 points below the Mendoza Line and just put up a .257/.348/.468 AAA season playing half his games at Albuquerque’s launching pad? The answer: pretty much nobody.

After the trade, Chad Moriyama seemed mildly perplexed when he wrote: “None of this is likely to matter in the long-run, but it’s still confusing to me,” and our own Mike Petriello seemed to regret having to waste space even mentioning the trade when he wrote: “this is a thing that happened and no more, and now you know about it, and for that I apologize.”

Now here’s the part where I apologize in advance for spending WAY too much time writing WAY too many words about Alex Castellanos. But hopefully you’re not doing anything important right now…

Anyway, after I offered to write the Castellanos review for MSTI, I started thinking (which admittedly is not always a good thing). Is there more to Castellanos than meets the eye? (Answer: maybe, but just a little.) Did the Red Sox just pick our pocket? (Answer: probably not, unless Hazelbaker has some latent defect.) After all, the Boston Red Sox are a pretty well run outfit, and they are the World Champs – so maybe they knew what they were doing when they dealt for Alex. So I decided to poke around a little (because who knows if I’ll ever have a chance to write another piece like this – so I may as well try to make it interesting-ish).

First I found this surprisingly optimistic take on Castellanos by Alex Speier, a columnist for WEEI.com, the website for Boston’s sports talk radio station WEEI-FM:

The Sox view him [Castellanos] as a right-handed hitter with some power who has the ability to hold his own against both right- and left-handed pitchers. While he’s coming off a down year in 2013 (.257/.347/.468 in Triple-A Albuquerque), the team thought him worth the acquisition cost based on his longer history as a player who provides solid at-bats, represents a plus runner and can play not only all three outfield spots but also the three infield positions aside from shortstop.”

Hmm. Could Boston have spotted some valuable part of Alex’s game that the Dodgers missed?

Well, Castellanos did have a good-year-on-paper for Albuquerque in 2012 (.328/.420/.590 with 17 HR and 16 SB in 94 games), but that must have been largely due to park effects, right? Right? Um – not so fast. In 2012, Castellanos’ road OPS (1.106) was actually more than 200 points higher than his Albuquerque home OPS (.904).. BUTT (I’m using a second “T” here because this is a really bug “but”) much of that road success can be traced to a ridiculous 2012 road BABIP of .417! (Tim Federowicz anyone?) But 2012 was still a solid season for Castellanos by any measure.

OK, so was 2012 a fluke? What about the year before? In 2011, Alex played in AA, dividing his time between Springfield (OPS .941) and Chattanooga (OPS 1.009) for a combined line of .320/.386/.573 with 23 HR and 14 SB and only 2 CS in 125 games. Another pretty damn fine season. And, for good measure, his platoon differentials in both 2012 and 2011 were inconsequential, supporting Mr. Speier’s view that Alex can “hold his own” against lefties and righties.

So if Alex was actually good at baseball in 2012 (even when not playing in Albuquerque) and in 2011 – then what the heck happened in 2013? Well, based on what little data I could find, it appears that Mr. Castellanos may have been the victim of a massive case of the Dreaded Road BABIP Regression (and if that’s not a thing then maybe it should be). No, I’m not kidding. (Well, maybe just a bit.) While Alex’s home OPS and BABIP in 2013 were essentially the same as they were in 2012 (see below – yes, I put WAY too much effort into this) – his road BABIP took a crazy nose-dive from .417 in 2012 to .246 in 2013 (in a league where the average BABIP is about .322) and that dragged down his road OPS from a dizzying 1.106 to a dismal .698.

Now, if all of these words aren’t enough to cause you to run screaming for another beer (or other beverage) – here comes an Alex Castellanos chart! (I really wanted to use the word “garph” but this is, in fact, a chart…)

Total OPS/BABIP Home OPS/BABIP Road OPS/BABIP v LHP OPS/BABIP V RHP OPS/BABIP League BABIP
2013 .815/.315 .911/.371 .698/.246 .628/.250 .897/.345 .322
2012 1.010/.390 .904/.365 1.106/.417 .899/.397 1.061/.387 .323
2011-AA .959/.381 1.067/.422 .861/.341 1.014/.364 .932/.389 .311
3-years .927/.364 .968/.389 .887/.337 .861/.339 .958/.375

In closing… (the few remaining readers shout “hooray” – but only inside their heads where nobody can hear…)

…Alex’s perceived value may have artificially tanked in 2013 due to nothing more than good old-fashioned bad luck. He’s clearly not as talented as he appeared to be in 2012 (as .417 BABIPs are ultimately unsustainable), but he probably doesn’t suck as much as he appeared to in 2013 (as his .246 BABIP was just way way off his norms and the league norms).

Now, to be clear, I do not believe that Alex Castellanos will become the second coming of Jayson Werth (or Candy Maldonado). Quite the contrary. First, at 27, he’s a lot older than those guys when they broke through and started playing well at the MLB level. And, second, he’s not nearly as good.

I would estimate that, given his career minor league stats, Castellanos’ best case projection as a major leaguer would be to become a kind of pre-2013 version of Jerry Hairston, Jr. – but with plus speed and some pop. Not a starter. Not a super utility guy. But a serviceable bench piece who can play at least five positions well enough to not stink up the joint while stealing a few bases, slapping base hits at a marginally acceptable rate and smacking an occasional dinger. Fortunately for the Dodgers, from what I’ve been able to dig up, Jeremy Hazelbaker is essentially the Muncie, Indiana version of Alex Castellanos (their apparent skill sets and projections are weirdly similar), just one year (and ten days) younger. (And he’ll probably give Chris Jackson better sound bites.) So, hooray Ned!?

*****

Next! It’s time for pitchers!

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