This week we are joined by one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, Alex Castellanos. Alex was a tenth round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2007 and then traded to the Dodgers last season in a deal for Rafael Furcal. As he’s worked his way towards the big leagues (now in AAA), he has changed positions from infield to outfield and back again in order to eventually allow his bat into the big league lineup. In his first full season of AA in 2011, Alex hit over .320 and has started 2012 in AAA on a tear.
Many thanks to Alex for taking the time to sit down with Next Level Ballplayer to talk about fighting through failure, how he gets out of slumps, importance of practicing hitting the ball the other way, what he thinks in the batter’s box, if he guesses pitches, his advice on taking your game to the next level and more.
What is one baseball-related lesson that has led to your success through the years?
Always work hard. When things aren’t going your way, keep fighting and eventually, something will happen. You have to love the game, because this game is tough. It’s a game of failure. If you can overcome that, you’ll become a great baseball player.
How do you get out of slumps?
I keep telling myself that I’ve done this before. I’ve gotten out of this before. I get back into the cage and start working on those little things I’d do when I was playing well. Eventually, I come out of it and it pays off.
Do you have one drill that you especially go back to?
I start hitting every ball away and make sure I hit them all to the opposite field. Then, when that’s an inside pitch, I just react and pull it.
When you’re in the game, are you looking away and reacting?
It depends what kind of pitch and what pitcher. It depends if it’s a pitcher I’ve faced before, what he is throwing to me. I might look at video before to see if he is a righty or lefty. I always read the pitcher first. During the pitch, though, I’m just thinking about going up the middle.
Do you have a focus point before you get to the release point? What do you look at from the box?
Sometimes I look at the pitcher’s grip. I look at the screen in the back and see if it’s easy to pick up the ball when he’s throwing. That’s pretty much it.
How do you prepare for your at bat in the on deck circle?
When I’m on deck, I try to time the pitcher the best I can. I take note of what he’s throwing. Then I just go up and hope for a hit.
How do you quiet your mind from the batter’s box?
Try not to think up there. I just go up there and use my tools. I react to the pitches.
Let’s say you’ve missed a pitch you should have drilled, do you do anything to refocus?
If I miss a pitch that I should have ripped, I make sure I don’t miss it again. If you miss those rare cookies that the pitcher may give you, it’s not easy to get those back.
What’s the best hitting advice you’ve ever heard?
To be honest, I’ve heard so many things… I can’t remember!
What was the hardest adjustment for you when you reached professional baseball?
The pitches were so much better, especially coming from a D2 school. Adapting and adjusting to those things is difficult for a while.
Do you guess pitches?
Not really. Let’s say I’m batting third and he is throwing a lot of off-speed pitches to me. Then I might cheat a little by guessing those pitches. That’s it, though.
Do you have a mindset of hitting with power or does that come naturally with your approach?
Everyone loves to hit home runs. I’ll be on deck, checking out who is on base and the situation. And that will dictate my approach during that at bat.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring baseball players who want to get better?
Work hard. Make sure you love it. It’s a tough game. Work your butt off. A lot of people will tell you that you can’t do it. That happened my whole life, but I still went out there and did what I needed to do.
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