Player Profile: Mike Costanzo

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I’ve gotten a lot of interest in Mike Costanzo, whether it be emails, comments, or just how people are finding this site, so I felt I needed to give him some face time. I think he’s a year away from me having to call this his “make or break season”, so we won’t lump him in there just yet. First, some background. I’m sure that most people who follow the minor leagues at all know that Costanzo is a local product, coming from the Springfield area, and was the Phillies first pick in the 2005 draft, which because of the Jon Lieber signing in 2004, didn’t come until the second round. He played third base for three seasons at Coastal Carolina, and being selected by the Phillies, was a feel good homecoming story, much to the delight of the media, who get paid to write such feel good stories.

Third base inside the Phillies organization, from the top down, has been somewhat of a black hole since the departure of one Scott Rolen. The Phillies thought they might have struck gold with Welinson Baez, a free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic, but his 2006 looked nothing like his 2005, and he has to be thought of as a question mark at best going forward. Other than Baez, there really wasn’t much to brag about in the organization at the hot corner, so the drafting of Costanzo looked like a good idea. Consider his batting line at Coastal Carolina in his sophomore and junior years

2004: .359/.479/.740, 21 HR, 74 RBI
2005: .379/.525/.658, 16 HR, 67 RBI

Also, he posted a 2.13 ERA in 55 innings pitched, with 69 K to only 24 walks.

Costanzo looked intriguing as a possible reliever as well, but the Phillies were convinced that he was better suited to third base, a position the organization lacked depth in, and that he could possibly be the answer to our third problems at the major league level in a few years. Upon being drafted, like most college guys, he was sent to Batavia. His line was respectable, not great, but not bad for having played a full season of college ball then going to pro ball:

.274/.356/.473, 11 HR, 50 RBI

The Phillies double jumped him, choosing to send him to Clearwater to start 2006. For young 19 year old players, the double jump is often a really big test. For college guys, however, skipping Low A should not be as big an issue, as they played against more advanced competition in college (most of them anyway) and should be able to adapt in a more timely fashion. Costanzo didn’t enjoy that type of success, as he started off the first two months of the season in rough form

April: .240/.302/.396
May: .233/.319/.340

At this point, many of us who follow the minors closely started to groan and already write off the mighty Costanzo. However, he responded over the next three months, showing gradual improvement

June: .247/.352/.344
July: .234/.359/.421

That may not look like improvement, but his plate discipline began to return, as he drew 34 walks in June in July compared to the combined 16 he drew in April and May. He also drastically cut down on his strikeouts, K’ing only 46 times in June and July compared to 63 times in April and May. Then, August came…

August: .327/.465/.525

Wow, talk about pulling a 180. Obviously he saw his numbers improve drastically, aided by his .387 BABIP, but also another really positive indicator surfaced. From April through July, he was hitting more balls on the ground than in the air. For a power hitter, that’s probably not a good thing. Check out his progression

April: 30 GB, 24 FB (1.25)
May: 40 GB, 18 FB (2.22)
June: 32 GB, 28 FB (1.14)
July: 47 GB, 29 FB (1.62)
August: 28 GB, 40 FB (0.70)

Costanzo, in college, was a power hitter. Since turning pro, however, the power just hasn’t been there, either in the form of consistent home run power or even good doubles power. His .473 slugging % at Batavia was okay, but against tired high school and college arms, he probably should have been around .525 or so, especially considering his college performance. In August, it seemed like he really turned it on, but we don’t know if he “figured it out” or just caught lightning in a bottle, because the season ended. At this point, he is still struggling against LHP, putting up a miserable .191/.308/.388 line against southpaws in 110 AB’s, compared to .277/.371/.442 in 394 AB against RHP.

Defensively, he was well thought of coming out of college, but struggled at Batavia in 2005, committing 21 errors in 69 games. In 2006, he “improved” by committing only 25 errors in 135 games. Obviously he is going to need to sharpen his game. Looking at his small sample pitching-wise, arm strength doesn’t seem to be the problem, and it is more than likely going to be his range and instincts that limit him defensively. Because the organization is so weak at 3B, he is going to be given every chance to improve and succeed there. It’s tough to measure defense at the major league level, let alone measure defense in the New York Penn League or the Florida State League, so let’s not put too much weight on his defense just yet. The Phillies haven’t talked of moving him off third yet (that I know of), so he’ll be there for the foreseeable future.

So then, 2007. Mike will open the season, his age 23 season, as the starting 3B at Reading. At 23, he needs to be in AA, and he needs to put up a season in the .820-.860 OPS range to remain a prospect worth watching. It’s certainly not unrealistic to expect a .280/.370/.470 season from him at Reading. Parkwise, Reading plays fairly well for hitters:

Runs: 1.08
Hits: 0.98
2B: 0.82
HR: 1.33
BB: 1.17
K: 1.03

Again, 1.00 is “average”

Costanzo, if he gets close to 500 AB, should hit 23-25 HR, especially if he can maintain his fly ball tendencies that he “discovered” in August. What Reading takes away in doubles it appears to more than add in home runs. If Mike steps up this season and has a big year, he could be pushing for playing time in Philly in 2008 at some point, but should be primed for time in 2009. Of course, that’s a long way away, and he needs to avoid starting the season with two sub .700 OPS numbers like he did in 2006. The Reading team should be fun to watch, with the pitchers climbing the ladder and Costanzo manning the hot corner. I had him ranked in my 11-15 range a few weeks ago, but if he puts up the type of season I described above, he’ll be pushing for a spot in the top 5 or 6 at this time next year. Time will tell.

11 thoughts on “Player Profile: Mike Costanzo

  1. I seem to remember that Costanzo’s 2005, like his ’06, started terribly and finished very strong. Two years might be a fluke, or it might be a trend. Agree that we still can’t be sure what to make of this guy, and it’s also probably worth noting that unlike Reading, CLW has an offense-depressing reputation.

    Also, while that .387 BABIP for August seems a bit freakishly high, Costanzo’s .250 BABIP for July–even as his patience and power both were coming back–strikes me as freakishly low. So his full-year stats at least are probably representative of his overall performance.

  2. Very nice review. Costanzo is definitely the position player to watch this season in the upper levels. I look forward to seeing him play at Reading. For the Phillies sake, he really needs to succceed.

  3. Really keeping track looks like a great prospect and cant wait to see him at CB park one day!

  4. Well they just traded him to the Astros for Lidge. We will see looks like the kid could have helped at 3rd in a few years. sad to see Bourn leave with him as well. Lets hope Lidge doesnt turn into Worrell.

  5. Lidge is solid…Bourn was overrated. Get used to it. Greg Golson is faster than Bourn, I can’t wait for Costanzo to take his 150+ strikeouts to Houston. GIVE ME BRAD LIDGE!!!!

  6. Costanzo traded again.

    From ESPN:

    Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada finally got his wish for a change of scenery, as he was traded to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

    In return for the four-time All-Star, the Orioles will get outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, and third baseman Michael Costanzo.

    The blockbuster trade was first reported by The Baltimore Sun.

  7. Poor guy. Doesn’t know what end is up. With Mora at 3B, unless they can get someone to take him, he will be blocked for 2 more years, unless they move him to the outfield or 1B.

  8. Mora could even move over to SS, he was a utility kind of guy for a while there. Then Rowell and Costanzo can duke it out for third.

  9. The kid actually scratched his nuts like a ball player since he was 8 years old. Got the film to prove it. He use to have a high leg kick too, just like Juan Marichel. No matter, he’s found his stroke, hit a dinger with the AAA Tides the other night and is on his way … He’ll be in the show by September for the lowly Orioles, maybe sooner if his bat stays hot.

  10. I live in Virginia Beach and have been watching this guy play for the Tides. Maybe his bat isn’t there right now but I am impressed with him. My guess is that it wont be long until he is called up- If not this season then the next. Though I completely agree with you on his make or break moment being around the corner. They are looking for consistency, and I believe he has the chops. I am rooting for him!

  11. this old man just got a way overdue demotion. never should have been drafted that high anyway, or even at all. washed up. whos next in line??

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