One of the players I had the most interest in seeing during their most recent series against the Kannapolis Intimidators was Greenville first baseman Pedro Castellanos. Coming into the season, Castellanos was an unranked prospect in Boston’s system by Baseball America. However, he is currently listed 18th in the organization by MLB.com. Castellanos is a tall right handed hitter listed at 6’3” 195. Although he does possess a lanky build, those measurements look to be an understated in both height and weight. That being said, he definitely has projectability to add several pounds of good weight. Hailing from Venezuela, Castellanos was signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent for a paltry $5000.
After his signing, Castellanos made short work of the pitching he saw in both the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. In the DSL he hit a robust .326 and his encore performance in the GCL generated a .339 batting average. This year he is being exposed to his first taste of full season ball. Playing as a twenty-year-old, he is approximately one year and four months younger than the typical player in class A ball. His baseball resume suggests he possesses good bat to ball skills with a 8.7% strikeout rate (42 in 481 plate appearances). He also does not take many free passes 6.2% walk rate. In short, Castellanos approach, which has worked for him thus far is… see ball, hit ball. Incidentally, in the early going of the 2018 Castellanos has stuck with this formula. In 71 plate appearances he has yet to take a walk while striking out 11 times.
In the first game that I saw Castellanos I anticipated a big performance. He was facing Parker Rigler, a 31st round draft pick. A quick assessment of Rigler showed that he is a short 5’ 11” left handed starter with a less than average fastball (85-86 mph) and middling secondary pitches. In the box Castellanos sets himself in a square stance with his feet spread wide apart and his hands high. He generates a fast waggle in which the barrel of the bat is sometimes aimed toward the pitcher over the top of his batting helmet. I would suggest that this is a less than optimum position, but I didn’t hit .339 in the Gulf Coast League. True to form Castellanos followed his formula; see ball hit ball. His first at bat, he swung and fouled off six pitches before taking ball one and then ball two. After hitting four more foul balls, he flew out to left field on the 13th pitch of the at bat. In his four plate appearances that night he swung at 18 pitches hitting 14 foul balls, 3 balls in play to generate outs and 1 swing and miss. He took 7 pitches, of which 6 were balls and one was a strike. His one swing and miss was on a high fastball out of the zone. His batting line for the evening was 0-4 with one strikeout and in three of his four at bats, he swung at the first pitch.
The second night I went to batting practice to see how well he barrels the ball when outcomes don’t matter. The ball sounded great off his bat, he made loud contact generating a lot of line drives but never left the ballpark. In the game, he was matched up against a much more formidable pitcher. Castellanos would be taking his hacks against Kade McClure, a 6’7” right hander drafted out of Louisville in the 6th round. Once again, his mission was clear… see ball, hit ball. He had five plate appearances albeit one didn’t count as he swung and missed while the runner on base ended the inning after being caught stealing. In these plate appearances Castellanos swung at the first pitch every time. Statistically he went 2-4 with a single, a double, a strike out and a fly out. Amazingly he saw less pitches on this night, 9 than he saw in his first at bat the prior evening. His base hit, back through the box was an absolute screamer and the double was hit to the opposite field.
In the series finale Castellanos was facing another seasoned college right hander, Lincoln Henzman who was drafted in the 4th round out of Louisville. Again, Castellanos showed an aggressive approach. His first two at bats were resolved on the first pitch. The first at bat generated a ground out to the pitcher, the second a double that was ripped. His third at bat yielded a three-pitch strikeout and in his final at bat, he took two balls before slapping an inside out single between the first and second basemen.
Overall, I liked the bat. Castellanos made loud contact. In my notes three of his four hits had descriptors next to them like “screamer” or “ripped.” He struck out once in each game, but was able to make contact against Tyler Johnson who may have the best velocity of any pitcher in the SAL. My concern was that his waggle wasn’t going to allow him to catch up with high octane fastballs. Professional evaluators take pause when looking at players like Castellanos because they fear his approach will be exposed when facing more advanced pitching. I however am a “glass is half full” guy. I see a lanky kid with a Darryl Strawberry build that has had success every step of the way. Right now, he is showing more gap to gap, line drive ability, but he has plenty of projectable power ahead of him. He is a very slow base runner, and he fields like a first baseman. How the hitting approach adjusts as he climbs the ladder and how the power develops will tell whether Castellanos ends up in the major leagues or serving as minor league filler. He is a fun hitter to watch and I will be hoping for his success.