Well, it’s upon us again.
You know, that bi-polar time of year when fans pump their fists in elation and in the next moment angrily hurl loose objects in the general direction of their HDTV’s.
That’s right–it’s Major League Baseball playoff time.
Rookie Detroit Tiger third baseman Nick Castellanos is participating in baseball’s postseason gala for the first time. How he comports himself may be one of the factors that influence the mindset of the team’s fans, for better or worse.
Let’s take a look at the 22-year-old and what can be expected from him in the playoffs. Along the way we’ll be mindful of the fact it’s difficult to project any player’s performance across the thin sample of games that comprise MLB’s postseason.
Owing to the many variables at work in the playoffs, Castellanos’s play could fall anywhere along a spectrum from abysmal to electrifying. Like the short-term gyrations of the stock market, it’s impossible to predict.
It is instructive, though, to dissect Castellanos’s game and surmise how he’ll play under the postseason glare for the first time in his career. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives attached to him as the team launches its postseason run.
Castellanos had a reasonably good year at the plate with a slash line of .259/.306/.394, while hitting 11 home runs and collecting 66 RBI’s. Named the starter at third in the off season following the cross-diamond move of Miguel Cabrera to first, he met the expectations of the Tiger brass and held down the position throughout the year.
Castellanos’s offensive splits reflect several salutary trends throughout 2014:
He battled against right handers (.266/.301/.401), and hit .284 at Comerica Park.
He was also particularly effective hitting out of the seven spot in the order, with a slash line of .294/.326/.469.
Not insignificantly, he held his own with runners in scoring position (.265/.335/.441).
Though Castellanos was mostly consistent throughout the year, he’s coming off a poor September, where he hit .245. Worse yet, he hit a lowly .152 in his final 10 games at a time when the team was fighting for its playoff life.
Castellanos also struggled on the road this year, hitting a modest .234.
Somewhat surprisingly, he also scuffled against left handers, with a .237 average and minimal power.
While he’s hit well in the seven slot, his stats in the sixth position of the batting order, where he hit most frequently, are much worse (.223/.276/.332).
Finally, and most importantly, Castellanos’s defense is well below average. He has limited range and committed 15 errors. His fielding percentage of .950 places him deep into the bottom quartile of American League third basemen.
The Bottom Line
With several high-profile players in the Detroit Tiger lineup, Nick Castellanos enters the 2014 playoffs anonymously, at least from a national perspective.
But there’s no sanctuary from the pressure–not even for a rookie–in a best of five series where it’s imperative to strike early and often.
So the kid will be tested, both at the plate and with the glove.
On the offensive side, the Tigers are hoping Castellanos will rekindle the magical fire that was raging in June, when he hit .337 and had 10 doubles.
Realistically, though, that’s a lot to ask from a rookie exposed to the roiling cauldron of playoff baseball for the first time.
On defense, manager Brad Ausmus will certainly replace Castellanos with a late lead and may even sit him completely for a game if he gets off to a sluggish start in the series.
In that case Don Kelly would most likely grab a third base glove in his stead.
So the postseason career of Nick Castellanos is now in progress. As the reputed standard bearer at third base for years to come, much will be expected of him down the road.
But for this aging team the future is now.
Which means no Tiger fan would be upset if Castellanos delivers that package of promise he holds earlier than expected.