Misunderstanding the Castellanos Situation


I don’t often write rebuttals of sportswriters work here, but when I do it’s almost always about Lynn Henning of the Detroit News (or, if not, then probably Tony Paul). Not today – today I saw a piece by Mark Hulet of MLBTR that you can find here, and simply couldn’t let it stand.

Now, the general idea of that piece is fine: that there are a number of major-league-ready top prospects that have been stewing in AAA (or below) waiting for a call-up, and that we are just about at that point in the season where teams don’t have to worry about qualifying a guy for “super 2” status. Could well be that one reason these guys haven’t been called up yet is that business side of the game and we might see a bunch of them in a hurry for just that reason. Fine.

Mar 7, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Luis De La Cruz (77) tags out Detroit Tigers right fielder Nick Castellanos (79) at home plate during the top of the eighth inning of a spring training game at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

But one of those guys is Nick Castellanos – and while we might see Castellanos called up in the not too distant future I don’t think he’s a fit. The argument would be that the Tigers were holding him down there in order to avoid letting the arb clock start ticking too soon, and that just is not the way Dave Dombrowski runs the organization. He extends certain courtesies to players (probably) in the hope that this will earn Detroit a “class organization” label that helps in negotiations with free agents as well as draft picks. If you follow that argument through, it would seem that Hulet is also making the case that if it were not for super 2 stinginess we would have seen Castellanos already. I disagree on those points – but that isn’t my primary beef. That would be the reasons that Hulet argues that the Tigers should call up Castellanos.

1. He can fill in for Cabrera at third. Hulet’s argument is that Castellanos can play both third base and corner outfield spots well defensively, and that with him on the roster the Tigers would be able to give Miguel Cabrera more days off down the stretch than they currently can or do. Since everyone reading this follows the Tigers pretty closely, I don’t honestly think I need to explain what is wrong with this (but I will anyway). Castellanos was a bad third baseman, defensively speaking, and for quite some time he has been exclusively used as a bad outfielder, defensively speaking. If the Tigers really wanted to give Cabrera some days off, the “good third baseman” that they should use would be Don Kelly. Sadly, if Cabrera moved to DH on those days it wouldn’t even mean much of a drop in offensive production. And… unless he gets banged up, Miguel Cabrera doesn’t want to sit (or DH) and the Tigers don’t want him to sit (or DH).

2. He can platoon with Andy Dirks in left. Well, sure, he could. But why on earth would you call the guy up just to do that??? If you ignore the Tigers desire – like most organizations – not to keep top prospects on the 25 in reserve roles, the half of the Dirks-Tuiasosopo platoon that isn’t hitting is lefty Andy Dirks. Matt Tuiasosopo, used almost exclusively against lefties (which is, of course, what he is best at), has acquitted himself phenomenally well. Tuiasosopo’s slash line is .338/.466/.563… you expect Castellanos to be an improvement on that??? Even expecting that much from Cabrera would be a little optimistic. Now, if Castellanos was a lefty maybe he could platoon with Tuiasosopo…

3. Calling him up would allow the Tigers to give Avisail Garcia more seasoning in AAA. This one probably does make sense to those who follow the Tigers occasionally, but not to anybody else. Castellanos is the younger guy and the better pure prospect. He’s the guy the Tigers don’t want to rush or bounce around to risk interfering with his development. Garcia is the slightly lesser prospect who the Tigers are willing to bounce around and to use in reserve roles. That’s what they did last year, that’s what they did this year when Austin Jackson was on the shelf. Garcia gets called up so that Castellanos can get more seasoning in AAA, not the other way around. Garcia has done fine, if he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, with a .756 major league OPS this year. Defensively, he shows tremendous tools but a bit of the shoddy execution you’d expect from a guy that just turned 23. But… as far as needing seasoning? When he was in the minors this year, Garcia put up an OPS of 1.117. He not necessarily Mike Trout, but he’s ready to contribute to the big league club. If either he or Castellanos would be on the team in a reserve role, Garcia is the one that can add some value as a pinch runner or possibly as a defensive replacement. The issue would be that the team doesn’t really need him (or Castellanos) right now so long as everybody is healthy.

If you want a sensible, cogent analysis of why or when the Tigers should call up Castellanos look here not there.