Nick Castellanos has been all the rage when it comes to Detroit Tigers‘ prospects since 2010, but he is unlikely to have the instant impact many fans are expecting from him this season.
With the trade of Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers, third base is a feasible option for Castellanos considering he won’t have to go through Miguel Cabrera to get there anymore. Castellanos has been playing third for the majority of his life, but he has yet to play the position at the highest level and spent the last two seasons learning to play in the outfield.
Castellanos will need at the very least a solid defensive performance in spring training. If he struggles in his transition back to third base, the Tigers’ can’t consider him an option on Opening Day.
But people don’t talk about Castellanos because of his defense. He has a natural, versatile swing and a knack for making good contact. In time he may develop the power to hit home runs, but he’s more of a line-drive hitter than he is a home-run hitter.
One player fans might unfairly compare Castellanos to is Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Machado started the 2012 season with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, but he played the last 51 games of that season in the big leagues. He forced the Orioles’ hand by hitting the cover off the ball for a few weeks in the minors.
Machado hit 38 doubles before July of last year. He made outstanding plays defensively and has shown the ability to bring his game up to a high level at just 21-years-old, but not many players improve so quickly.
Castellanos was moved up to the Double-A Erie Seawolves in 2012 after excelling with the Lakeland Tigers, but his batting average dropped from .405 to .264 with the move. He showed signs of improvement with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, but he never forced the Tigers’ hand like Machado did to Baltimore. Castellanos has been consistent in the minors but has yet to show the Tigers he belongs in the lineup.
Castellanos has shown his ability to hit, but many people expect him to hit immediately. It is highly unlikely he would make the transition from Triple-A outfielder to MLB third baseman without growing pains.
Barring a dominant spring training, Castellanos should start this season in Toledo again. It wouldn’t hurt the Tigers to wait for him to show them he’s ready to make the transition to the next level. Fans might not like the move, but it may be what Castellanos needs to continue to improve his game.
The Tigers aren’t deep when it comes to prospects, because they’ve used many of their top youngsters as trade bait in recent years. Castellanos is the clear-cut favorite out of all of them to make it on the roster, but fans shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make the cut.