Looking at Furcal

I was going to do some sort of post reviewing the Cardinals trade deadline moves, but the Colby Rasmus deal has been ripped apart and shredded multiple times.  I have nothing new to add to the discussion.  The horse has already been beaten and beaten again.

So I want to look at the Furcal deal.  We gave up soon-to-be 25-year-old outfielder Alex Castellanos for Rafael Furcal and we only have to pay $1.4 of his remaining $4 million dollar salary the rest of the year.  Who’s Castellanos?  Actually, he’s a very intriguing prospect if only because he’s completely destroying AA pitchers right now.

Drafted in the 10th round in 2008 out of Belmont-Abbey College, Castellanos quickly rised through the system.  He signed immediately and the Cardinals saw how he did as a 21-year-old in rookie ball.  He excelled in 199 plate appearances hitting 7 homers and batting .298, but had little plate discipline walking just eight times while striking out a whopping 45 times.  The Cardinals let him finish the year in Low A, where he batted .269 with an .845 OPS.

He started the 2009 season in Quad Cities where he became a sort of utility man.  Drafted as a 2B, Castellanos alternated between 2B, 3B, and all three outfield positions.  Hitting was always his lone quality and it appears to never have failed him.  In Quad Cities, he continued to shaw raw power (30 extra base hits in 346 plate appearances), but also showed how little patience he had (89 strikeouts to 20 walks).  His overall line was good enough for .270/.336/.412 which was enough for him to get a taste of Palm Beach to finish the year, where he managed just a .186 average.

He played the entire 2010 season at Palm Beach where he made a permanent switch to right field.  He showed better plate discipline, though not by much (38 walks to 112 strikeouts in 517 plate appearances) and he was still old for his league at 23-years-old.   He hit 13 homers to go along with his poor plate discipline.  At this point, it appeared Castellanos was never going to make it with his good, but not great power and poor plate discipline.  Then this season happened.

He actually struck out more and walked less, but showed a ton more power than he had ever had.  In just 391 plate appearances, Castellanos had hit 19 homers and the difference between his slugging percentage and his average was .243 (also known as isolated power which is meant to judge raw power because slugging percentage is too affected by the average of a person).

Now at this point, it appears that I am showing Castellanos to be a player of some value.  However, the Cardinals did well to trade him at his highest possible point.  For one, he’s still old for his league at 24-years-old.  For two, he’s in a hitter’s park in Springfield.  For reference let’s compare Castellanos, Colby Rasmus, and Dan Descalso’s lines in AA and in the rest of their minor league career:

Castellanos AA: .319/.379/.562 – MiLB career: .283/.347/.480

Rasmus AA: .275/.381/.551 – MiLB career: .277/.366/.485

Descalso AA: .326/.397/.520 – MiLB career: .276/.347/.406

To be fair to Castellanos on this one, the lefties are the ones who really benefit and he’s not a lefty so his stats aren’t all home park-induced.  But there is a clear trend of having way more power than they ever showed at any other level.  Considering Castellanos has terrible plate discipline, he needs to have insane power to be get to the major leagues.

He struck out 94 times in just 391 plate appearances in Springfield walking just 24 times.  He’s just not going to make the major leagues unless this improves.  Or better yet, he won’t be successful in the majors if he doesn’t improve upon that.

Plus, if there’s one thing the Cardinals organization has plenty of, it’s outfielders.  In front of Castellanos, in no particular order, are Matt Holliday (5 years), Jon Jay (4 years), Allen Craig (5 years), Adron Chambers, Andrew Brown, and maybe even Daryl Jones because he can play CF.  So that’s two definite starters, one potential starter, a Jon Jay look-alike (Chambers) and an Allen Craig look-alike (Brown) followed by Daryl Jones.  Considering he’s 24-years-old, there was little chance he would make it past all of them.

And we get Rafael Furcal.  He’s worth a shot since our middle infielders are not very good with little potential and Furcal is a middle infielder who is not very good this year with a lot of potential.  Last year, in 428 plate appearances, Furcal batted .300/.366/.460 and this year’s batting .197/.272/.248.  What changed?

Well not as much as you think.  Given it’s in 152 plate appearances, I’m inclined to think he’s due for a turnaround.  He is walking a bit less than last year, but he’s also striking out a bit less.  Last year, he had 60 strikeouts and 40 walks.  This year he has 22 strikeouts and 11 walks.  Nothing too alarmingly different.  His power has been sapped, but there’s no reason to think he’ll be this bad, power-wise.

It’s just been 152 plate appearances which is not that much to determine if Furcal truly has lost it.  The Cardinals were smart to see if he can turn it around because he probably will because most players don’t fall off a cliff in their 34-year-old season.  There is a possibility that he won’t, but I think this is a good gamble.  Ryan Theriot is pretty much just as bad as Furcal NOW so worst-case scenario he stays the same and our SS production is literally awful.  Best case scenario, we get Furcal’s 2010 season and our already great offense is vastly improved.

I think the median is that Furcal figures it out, but only has an average season.  Something like a .270/.330/.400 would be the median in my opinion which is vastly better than Ryan Theriot.  I think there is a better shot Furcal improves throughout the rest of the season than not and we gave up virtually nothing for Furcal so this was a good move.

Tags: Adron Chambers Alex Castellanos Allen Craig Andrew Brown Colby Rasmus Daniel Descalso Daryl Jones Jon Jay Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Holliday Palm Beach Cardinals Quad City River Bandits Rafael Furcal Ryan Theriot Springfield Cardinals St Louis Cardinals

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