It has been so far so good for Detroit Tigers‘ top prospect Nick Castellanos this spring. Entering play on Sunday, Castellanos has gone 3-for-7 with two doubles and five RBIs in the Grapefruit League. That is a great sign for the Tigers.
There has been a lot of concern among Tigers fans this offseason about what will happen if the soon to be 22 year old Castellanos falters in Spring Training. Although the Tigers do have a handful of potential backup options, none of them are particularly attractive. Few believe that Don Kelly and Steve Lombardozzi are capable of being everyday solutions at third base, and moving Miguel Cabrera back to the hot corner would most likely be far too risky.
It now appears that the Tigers are going to be very patient with Castellanos and ride it out with him unless he seriously begins to struggle — a scenario that now seems unlikely based on what he has shown thus far. That said, Castellanos will most likely experience his “highs and lows,” as virtually all rookies do.
If Castellanos can continue his hot spring, Tigers fans far and wide will obviously breathe a collective sigh of relief. However, Castellanos is bound to hit a rough patch sooner or later and the Tigers can expect to go through some growing pains with him this coming season. There will likely be times when he shows shades of brilliance, but there will almost certainly be times when he shows signs of being a rookie as well.
The Tigers have seemingly tempered expectations for the young Castellanos and fans appear to have done so as well. In recent years, players such as Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig have shocked the MLB, as they have set the bar incredibly high for rookies. It would be very unfair to expect Castellanos to have the same type of immediate impact that these two players have had.
It has been reported that Castellanos could potentially evolve into the type of player who can hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs, but most believe that the Tigers would be thrilled if Castellanos can just hit .260-.270 with 15-20 home runs in his rookie season. Last season, Castellanos posted a slash line of .276/.343/.450 with 18 home runs, 37 doubles and 76 RBIs in Triple-A Toledo. It would be great if he could just post similar numbers for the Tigers in 2014.
Although they are not Cabrera numbers, if Castellanos does manage to put up such statistics, he will actually be giving the Tigers far more production out of the third base position than they were getting before Cabrera was moved back over there in 2012.
In 2010, during Brandon Inge‘s final full season as the Tigers’ third baseman, he hit .247 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs. In 2011, Inge had an abysmal season, as he had a slash line of just .197/.265/.283 with three home runs and 23 RBIs, and the Tigers were forced to swing a deal for Wilson Betemit down the stretch. It is a relatively safe bet that Castellanos will hit better than Inge did at the end of his tenure with the Tigers.
Personally, I am going to predict that Castellanos will hit .264, with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs in 2014 and play slightly above average defense at third base. In a lineup that features Cabrera and Victor Martinez, that should be more than enough production from “Nick the Kid.”