This offseason, many fans of Detroit Tigers baseball were understandably concerned about the Tigers’ lack of a viable backup option at third base. However, those fears have quickly become a distant memory as Nick Castellanos has proven in Spring Training that he is more than capable of being an everyday player at the big league level. Instead, the Tigers have been worried about plugging holes at shortstop, left field and in the bullpen rather than at the hot corner.
Entering play on Friday, Castellanos has a Spring Training batting average of .350 which is among the highest of anyone in camp behind only Alex Gonzalez, Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera. He has also hit nine doubles, two home runs and recorded 16 RBIs. Therefore, it would suffice to say that Castellanos is ready to tackle the challenge of big league pitching.
The biggest question that remains about Castellanos is how well he can play defensively. He has made a couple of errors in Spring Training, and the 22-year-old rookie is likely to make a few defensive mishaps throughout the course of the 162-game season as well. However, the Tigers have the perfect mentor for him in Omar Vizquel on their coaching staff, and Castellanos possesses the ability to make up for his errors with his bat, so there is no need to worry.
Although Castellanos has had a great spring, he is bound to cool off sooner or later. Fans are generally expecting Castellanos to end the season with a batting average in the .260-.280 range with double-digits in the home run column and 60-70 RBIs. These appear to be a reasonable set of goals for him as he recorded a slash line of .276/.343/.450 with 18 home runs, 37 doubles and 76 RBIs last season in Triple-A Toledo.
A good comparison for Castellanos may in fact be Travis Fryman, who played for the Tigers from 1990-97. Fryman consistently batted between .260-.300 with anywhere between 15-22 home runs and 80-100 RBIs. However, it is important to note that Castellanos has already had a more impressive run in the minor leagues than Fryman did, so perhaps the ceiling may be even higher for him.
With all of the injuries that the Tigers have endured this spring, they would have been in serious trouble if Castellanos had performed poorly this spring. Thankfully, he has played exceptionally well.