As of this writing, Nick Castellanos looks to be the best position prospect the Tigers have cultivated since Cameron Maybin, and possibly the best one that’s actually made the big league squad since, geez, Tony Clark? Bobby Higginson? Needless to say, he’s looking pretty good as he moves from level to level, learning and excelling each step of the way.
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA infielder Nick Castellanos holds up the game MVP trophy after the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. USA defeated World 17-5. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports
His Triple-A stats are no joke: he’s sporting an OBP of .370 thanks in part to his 11% walk rate; his BABIP is .327, which seems solid and not really fluky; and his power, long hinted at with roped doubles, looks to be burgeoning, as he has 10 homers and an ISO of .194. His wRC+ sits at 132, above-average for his level. Succinctly put, the dude’s killing it.
So, when can Joe Tiger Fan get excited about a little Castellanos in his Detroit life?
That’s when things get a bit muddy. Drafted to play third base, Castellanos is transitioning to leftfield, which is currently occupied by Andy Dirks and Avisail Garcia (at least when Austin Jackson returns). Back in the infield, third is blocked by The Best Hitter in the Major Leagues, and short is blocked by Jhonny Peralta, who won’t be going anywhere fast (literally). Castellanos hasn’t played shortstop since high school, so that prospect is a bit iffier than most.
Honestly, there’s not really a spot to use the guy, especially as the Tigers encounter the prospect of transitioning to a younger squad. By that I mean they have to take a good long look in the mirror and figure out when they want to have Garcia and Dirks each man a corner of the outfield regularly, whether or not Hernan Perez is good enough to handle second base every day, and whether or not they really want to let Castellanos marinate in the minors or start a domino effect as he displaces Cabrera at third, who displaces Fielder at first, who displaces Martinez at DH.
As much as we’d all like to be excited about a great young player, one who could legitimately vie for AL Rookie of the Year, we might just have to stay content with him learning and developing in the minor leagues until the Tigers start allowing veterans to leave so youth can take their places.