Dodgers Attempt to Replace Kemp with Castellanos

Matt Kemp‘s frustration was apparent as he rounded second base in the first inning of last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Fears of the worst were confirmed as Kemp destroyed a bat in frustration: the Dodgers’ star expects to return to the disabled list, and he could miss more than two weeks this time around.

The Dodgers are without question a star driven team, with players like Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier holding up an otherwise unimpressive roster. Yesterday’s lineup following Kemp’s departure read like something one would expect at an Albuquerque Isotopes contest. With Kemp out for multiple weeks, the Dodgers will turn to the ‘Topes best, Alex Castellanos. The 25-year-old will replace Kemp on the roster according to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein.

Castellanos has been riding a hot streak since his promotion to Double-A to open 2011. He put up a .411 wOBA with the Cardinals’ Double-A Springfield squad before his inclusion in the Rafael Furcal trade. With the Dodgers, he improved all three triple-slash categories en route to a .439 wOBA for Double-A Chattanooga. Then he destroyed the Arizona Fall League with three homers and a .828 slugging percentage in eight games. Finally, his Triple-A performance this season forced the Dodgers’ hands: 17 extra-base hits in 21 games and a .361/.465/.711 line.

Given the Dodgers’ other options — Tony Gwynn Jr, Elian Herrera, Scott Van Slyke — going for the unproven but promising Castellanos is an easy choice. Neither of the former trio is projected for a wOBA above .306, a full 70 points below Kemp’s projected mark. Nobody expects Castellanos to come up and be Kemp, but if he can be even an average hitter it will be a huge improvement over the current roster.

Going from Albuquerque to Los Angeles will deflate his massive .349 Triple-A ISO, but Castellanos has shown patience (walk rate over 10% since the trade) as well. The question will be if he can make enough contact for it to count. He flirted with 25% strikeout rates in the low minors and with the Cardinals in Double-A, but again he seemed to make a big improvement following the trade, striking out in only 16.8% of plate appearances with Chattanooga and 20.4% with Albuquerque.

The Dodgers went 9-5 in Kemp’s absence thanks to tremendous pitching and defense — the team’s 3.14 ERA sits just behind the Nationals for the best in baseball. But Ted Lilly is on the DL and a .271 BABIP allowed seems destined to rise. The Dodgers will need to squeeze some extra punch out of a light lineup to survive their star’s absence. At 25 years old and just 21 games into his Triple-A career, Alex Castellanos is no guarantee to provide that punch. But with how well he has played in the last calendar year and the Dodgers’ extreme need for an impact bat (or even an average bat), it’s a gamble well worth making.

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22 Responses to “Dodgers Attempt to Replace Kemp with Castellanos”

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  1. kozilla says:

    Nice piece on Castellanos. I like the move as well. Some production would be a really nice surprise especially considering Furcal’s resurgence. It was hard to watch Kemp’s reaction and as a Dodger fan I too was crushed by the injury. Probably would have broken a bat too if I had one and was strong enough.

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  2. Al in NJ says:

    The PCL is a bit of a joke when it comes to pitching (you guys know that) but at least Castellanos has numbers to go off of from Chattanooga.

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  3. Vision says:

    Castellanos could always hit with the Cards, but wasn’t much of a glove man and had contact issues. He’s improved in all areas since the trade.

    Obviously the Cards wouldn’t do the deal over since they don’t win the World Series without Furcal, but it will be interesting to see what Castellanos turns into.

    I’m guessing MLB will be a bit of a challenge to him, but he’ll hit a tick and carve out a role as a grinder off the bench ultimately.

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    • DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

      they don’t win the World Series without Furcal


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      • Jake says:

        Well…. Furcal did score the only run in Game 5 vs the Phillies, so I think that’s a reasonable statement.

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      • chuckb says:

        Because runs scored by a player are a good measure of player value.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        I’m confident that this is obvious a simple mistake and the above commenter clearly meant that the Cardinals would do the deal again, since he helped them win the World Series.

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  4. Interesting, but I hardly expect Castellanos to be a daily replacement in the starting lineup. Gwynn will continue to play most every day. I would expect that Castellanos just shuffles up the depth chart to be their 5th outfielder.

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    • Bubba says:

      Maybe. They sure gave Sands a long look before benching/demoting him last year. I think they’ll give Castellanos an opportunity to see if his stroke continues in the bigs. Sometimes it takes pitchers some time to find the holes in a swing and to spread the word.

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  5. Trent says:

    The Dodgers might platoon Herrera and Gwynn in CF, Sands/Gwynn/Abreu in LF, while giving Castellanos a shot at 2B/3B with Hairston and Kennedy. Even though Kemp, Ellis, Sellers, and Uribe (actually, I’d rather see Uribe out of the lineup) are on the DL, the Dodgers have lots of roster flexibility.

    Give the kid a shot!

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    • bawfuls says:

      It would be nice if Castellanos’ glove could hang long enough in the infield to keep Kennedy out of the lineup.

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  6. matt1101 says:

    Jesus. I just got Kemp in a trade too. This is really disappointing.

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  7. Squirrelmetrix says:

    Another way to give the offense a jolt would be to pencil A.J. Ellis at the #2 spot or the #5 spot. He’s been on base 43% of the time.

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  8. clevelander says:

    Sands is back down right? Does that mean all the shine has written off for him and he is viewed as organizational depth. He had some strong numbers on the minors earlier on his career.

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  9. Bip says:

    Gwynn’s defense more than justifies a starting spot in CF, and there’s a chance he could be nearly average with the bat. Alex is learning to be a 2B, and I don’t know how far along he is, but that would certainly increase his usefulness.

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  10. Sandy Kazmir says:

    I’m so glad that the Rays are taking their time with Longoria as you really have to be careful with hamstring strains. In 2010 & 11 the average strain or injury averaged 25 days on the DL with several players subsequently re-visting the DL once or even twice in some instances.

    With the Dodgers lead in their division it’s mind-boggling that they would bring a great player back before the injury was completely healed. Some may want to call this bad luck, but it’s bad process from the Dodger front office and I can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with the dramatic difference in attendance at Dodger Stadium between Kemp in the lineup (39,035 average) and out (36,662). I’d really hope that this team wasn’t putting short term financial decisions ahead of player health and long term team decisions.

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  11. Jarrett says:

    Here’s off topic comment:

    The PCL league is considered so “hitter friendly” that that Dodgers have been trying to skip it with their best pitching prospects. Everybody who follows the minor leagues, knows about PCL’s crazy stats for offense.

    Q: When is the league going to do something about the PCL league? Why don’t they just move fences back, or try to think of other ways, to make it fairer. After all, it’s supposed to be the minor leagues; not college or little league.

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  12. bushe says:

    Now he can afford to get Doritos Locos Tacos every night! He won’t even have to drive as far!

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  13. Juan Chapa says:

    Interesting assessments. Does anyone remember Ryne Sandberg?
    He was traded by the Phillies to the Cubs. Started his first season
    0 for 30 (something along those lines), before becoming an
    All-Star, helping to take the Cubs to the post season in
    1984 and 1989, and was MVP in 1984. Its funny how
    prospects come back to haunt teams, and Talent Evaluators.

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