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Alex Castellanos joins the Rockies boasting a strong track record in the Pacific Coast League

The Rockies didn't give Alex Castellanos a non-roster invite to spring training, but he has tools for the bigs if he gets a chance this summer.

The Colorado Rockies took a flyer on Alex Castellanos this spring.
The Colorado Rockies took a flyer on Alex Castellanos this spring.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When the Colorado Rockies released their list of non-roster invitees to Major League spring training last week, there was at least one player missing: Alex Castellanos. A newcomer to the organization, the Rockies signed the 29-year-old as a minor league free agent over the winter, and common sense at the time suggested the veteran with Major League experience would join big league camp in Scottsdale.

We now know that's not the case, however—and I'm not the only one surprised by Castellanos' omission from the Rockies' impending gathering of Major Leaguers.

"It's a little surprising, just because you look at his Triple-A numbers the two years before this at Las Vegas, and then El Paso, especially in Las Vegas before he went to Japan last year, and he did great," Chris Jackson, the Albuquerque Isotopes beat writer for the Examiner tells me of his surprise at Castellanos not being invited to big league spring training.

"It’s a little odd, but teams are gonna do what they are gonna do, and they rarely ever explain it to us."

Let's do what Jackson suggests, then, and look at Castellanos' numbers in the Pacific Coast League the last several years. Really, the super-utility player (more on his position in a minute) has done about as well as one can do in Triple-A without getting a sustained Major League call-up:

Year Team Org League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 Albuquerque LAD AAA / PCL 94 344 74 113 25 7 17 52 16 46 85 .328 .420 .590 1.010
2013 Albuquerque LAD AAA / PCL 105 385 75 99 14 5 19 61 19 41 112 .257 .347 .468 .815
2014 El Paso SD AAA / PCL 113 360 69 99 25 5 8 42 8 37 104 .275 .351 .439 .790
2015 Las Vegas NYM AAA / PCL 79 280 58 88 32 2 16 56 5 24 73 .314 .381 .614 .996
4 yrs AAA Totals —— PCL 391 1369 276 399 96 19 60 211 48 148 374 .291 .374 .521 .895

For all his work the last four seasons in the hitter-friendly league, Castellanos earned himself just two brief Major League call-ups—both with the Dodgers, in 2012 and 2013—and a very short stint in Japan at the end of 2015:

2012 Los Angeles Dodgers 16 23 3 4 0 1 1 3 0 0 8 .174 .200 .391 .591
2013 Los Angeles Dodgers 8 18 2 3 1 0 1 1 0 0 5 .167 .167 .389 .556
2015 Yomiuri Giants 6 20 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 2 11 .100 .182 .150 .332

Of course it's readily apparent these numbers are a far cry from what Castellanos has done in Triple-A, just as it's readily apparent that he hasn't been given a sustained enough chance at the next level to see if he could replicate his minor league numbers over the course of more at-bats. For Jackson, it isn't that Castellanos is a AAAA player, though, as much as it's about the Miami native never finding the right fit in the PCL—especially with Los Angeles, who acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal back in 2011.

"I could never really quite figure out what the Dodgers wanted to do with him," Jackson says, having covered Castellanos daily in Albuquerque in 2012 and 2013. "They never seemed to get what they wanted from him, but I’m not sure they ever knew what they wanted. It was in an odd time in that transitional phase after Frank McCourt's ownership, and I think they wanted him to be a super utility guy. That’s what they sort of groomed him as, but it never quite clicked with him."

While Castellanos has only ever played the outfield at the Major League level, he's covered Triple-A infields the last several years in addition to his outfield work—a role coincidentally performed most similarly in the big leagues today by a pair of Dodgers: Kiké Hernandez and Alex Guerrero.

That super sub role never quite caught on with him like it did Hernandez and Guerrero, though, and even though he could never get a shot at a sustained job in The Show, Castellanos did have a couple brief chances to impress the big league brass at Dodger Stadium.

"With the Dodgers, I think he just got caught up in that, ‘oh we have tons of outfielders and we don’t know what to do with any of them’ problem,'" Jackson notes about his impressions after one of Castellanos' returns to the PCL from the Majors.

Above everything else, if you can hit the ball, you can keep getting professional gigs. And across every minor league level throughout his career, Castellanos has hit the ball — hence his continued chances in the high minor leagues, even if teams have little to no interest in giving him an opportunity at the next level.

"He’s a good hitter," Jackson says. "He’s not a dead pull hitter or anything and he doesn’t just try to go the other way. He’s pretty good at hitting to all fields. He gets a little overaggressive and impatient at times, but that's the curse of a lot of guys at this level."

As we've explored recently with players who just can't quite get on the Major League pace, there are jobs to be had around the world that will (a) pay you, and (b) give you a high-profile opportunity above Triple-A. Castellanos may not have broken through in the Majors, but after a torrid start to 2015 in Las Vegas, he got a shot in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants.

"Let’s face it, the Japanese team he went to, the Yomiuri Giants, are the Yankees of Japan," Jackson says of Castellanos' (brief) tenure in the Far East. "I know he struggled there but the very fact that the Yomiuri Giants wanted him, that’s generally a sign."

Struggle is an understatement, even if it's in a small sample size; Castellanos got just two hits in 22 plate appearances with Yomiuri and whiffed 11 times over six games. He spent all of eight days in Japan before the Giants cut him loose, though Jackson notes that shouldn't necessarily be taken as a sign of complete failure at a level higher than the Pacific Coast League.

"I think he just fell into that curse that some guys have going to Japan," Jackson notes, "that if you don’t get off to a hot start, or get off to a cold start on some teams, the manager will just bench you."

★ ★ ★

After being released from that contract on August 7, Castellanos didn't catch on anywhere in the States the rest of the 2015 season, and for the first time in several years, he didn't pursue any winter ball opportunities in the Caribbean. Now, he'll get a chance with the Rockies this spring, despite not receiving that non-roster spring training invite. Depending on how the Rockies use him—and how they envision their Triple-A club in a broader sense—that may not matter.

"Seeing how the Rockies handled Albuquerque last year, Triple-A is the reserve team, it’s not always the development level," Jackson says. "It was for Jon Gray, Tom Murphy, Trevor Story – for those guys it’s a developmental team. But for a lot of the other guys, you’re the big league reserves, and so you’ll play everywhere. And I’ve got a feeling [Castellanos] will play pretty much everywhere this season, and his versatility will enable them to move him around a lot."

Versatility in the outfield and at second base, third base, and first base would theoretically give Castellanos a better shot as big league depth through a long season, and from there, it becomes a question of whether Coors Field comes calling if he opens 2016 as strongly as he did 2015 in Las Vegas. To answer that, I ask Jackson about another veteran the Rockies signed for minor league depth last season, with whom the beat writer is very familiar: Roger Bernadina.

Jackson covered Bernadina in 2015, of course, but also coincidentally covered the Curacao native in 2014, too, when he was in the Dodgers' system at Albuquerque. In fact, there are a few interesting notes between Bernadina's time as part of L.A.'s organization two summers ago—when they plucked him as a free agent after he struggled mightily with the Reds to start the season—and Castellanos' track record and acquisition this season.

"No one picked Bernadina up for weeks [in 2014], and then all of a sudden the Dodgers picked him up on a minor league deal, sent him here, and he got a September call up," Jackson says. "It was weird. Why were they even calling him up? Why did they even need to put him on the 40-man? But teams work in mysterious ways."

Image via Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Image via Rob Tringali/Getty Images

It's that uncertainty that leaves Jackson scratching his head about Castellanos, now, too. After all, if it could happen to Bernadina in 2014, it might happen again to Castellanos in 2016, and thus, it's worth it for Rockies fans to keep the organizational newcomer in the back of their heads.

"Will I say for sure that Alex Castellanos will not make it up to the big leagues? No, he probably won’t," Jackson continues. "But will I bet my press credential on it? Absolutely not. Every player an organization signs, even if they are 99% there for Triple-A, always has that little bit of ‘well, he could fit with us at the big league level.’"

Jackson trails off from there, which is apropos; it's tough to make a firm conclusion about Castellanos considering how many different ways his short-term future could fall in the next month. At the very least, his is a path to follow this spring and summer for those interested in the uncertain, tenuous existence that is veteran depth in the high minor leagues. Always a step from the big leagues, and yet always a step from being jobless, Alex Castellanos will again walk the line this summer.