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Arizona Fall League: Kory Casto

Back to the Arizona Fall League. Some of you may have noticed this story here from this morning's $.35 edition, which is really more of an overview of what the Nationals and their players are trying to get out of the league. Much more of an opportunity to break down their own skills and work on specific things than it is to win ballgames, etc.

So we'll continue a brief series on the Nats players here. (I didn't get a chance to talk to all of them in my couple of hours there.)

Seems like a long time ago that Kory Casto was the rage of spring training. I remember after one Grapefruit League game a Nationals official telling me that the lineup seemed to change when Casto was in there because he was such a patient hitter, other guys took that approach, and the opposing pitcher had to labor more.

But Casto had two shots in the majors, both over by mid-May. He hit .130 in 54 at-bats, walking just twice and striking out 17 times. He is now probably where he should be, off the Nationals' list of top 10 prospects. He was there, like a lot of guys, by default, because the club had so few true prospects that someone had to fill out the list.

Casto went down and played 114 games for Class AAA Columbus. Keep in mind: He had never played above Class AA Harrisburg before this year. He hit .246/.334/.384.

I asked him to evaluate his year.

"It wasn't the season that I expected at all, definitely not the numbers that I wanted to put up," he said. "But as far as learning, getting better mentally and stuff, it was the best year that I've had. The numbers weren't there, and a lot of things weren't there, so I had to kind of learn from it. I was almost forced to learn from it. I think that everybody kind of goes through one of those years where it just doesn't happen for you."

"Not making any excuses," he continued, "but I hit a lot of balls right at people, too. You can't control that. It just seemed like every time I would have one good at-bat a game, it would be a line drive somewhere right at somebody. Instead of being 1 for 4 or 1 for 3 with a walk, I was 0 for 4. It just never got going for me."

That, Casto said, showed him the importance of having more than one quality at-bat a game. "That's one of those things that the good hitters do," he said. "Even when they're struggling, they're able to make that one at-bat count, or take that one mistake pitch and put it in play somewhere."

Casto said he doesn't consider the year a lost one because of what he learned. He also said that he took something from his time in the majors, albeit brief.

"I think that level up there is something that takes time to adjust to. The expectations you have of yourself aren't always going to happen. It's tough. Looking at guys like [San Diego's Kevin] Kouzmanoff and [Colorado's Troy] Tulowitzki and those kind of guys, it took them 250-300 at-bats before they really started to figure it out. That's sometimes just the experience factor that helps a great deal. Hopefully after 250 at-bats up there I could do the same kind of thing."

Casto isn't exactly tearing up the fall league. He's hitting .245 with one homer and six RBI in 45 at-bats. He's also not sure at what position his future lies. He played left field in the majors, third base for Columbus (for the most part), and he's been playing a lot of first base for Peoria in the fall league. The positive spin: Maybe versatility gets him to the majors.

"The more positions you can play, the more opportunities there are," he said. "Things like that, it's a good thing to just know them even if you're not playing them every day."

Most scouts I've talked to who are familiar with Casto believe that's in his best interest, because they don't think he'll hit for enough power to be a corner infielder or outfielder. He's probably a reserve guy in the majors, and given the Nationals' situation at those positions - Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young at first, Ryan Zimmerman at third, corner outfielders including Austin Kearns, Wily Mo Pena and Ryan Church - it seems he's stuck behind a bit of a logjam everywhere.

Plus, there's the matter of performing.

"I still have confidence," Casto said. "I just have to take this last year as a learning experience, not let it frustrate me and move forward."

I'll try to keep you up-to-date here with any news over the weekend, but I've got my parents coming to town, which puts me on full-bore get-the-house-ready duty today. I'll get to another fall league update early next week, and we'll move onto the MLB awards - rookies of the year are announced on Tuesday. I'll get you a schedule for those and let you debate each one.

Also, I'm due to be on "Washington Post Live" on Comcast SportsNet this afternoon at 5 p.m., in studio with the Post's Camille Powell. My guess would be we'd talk some Hot Stove stuff there.

Have a great weekend.

By Barry Svrluga  |  November 9, 2007; 10:48 AM ET
 
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