Detroit Tigers: Is Nick Castellanos Really That Bad?


After a the most recent article by Tony Paul and The Detroit News, Nick Castellanos has become a topic of rumors and conversations. According to the article, teams have been shopping the Detroit Tigers to see if Castellanos is available. Since Castellanos is technically a Tiger until free agency arrives in 2020 and he is one of the few affordable players on the team, it is highly unlikely that he will be leaving any time soon.

With this revelation about teams shopping him, the comments and questions about his ability to effectively play the hot corner have risen. So, is Nick Castellanos really that bad at third base?

Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos pumps his fist after hitting a grand slam against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, the Detroit Tigers front office does not think so. He was a first-round draft in 2010 right out of high school at age 18. He quickly moved through the minor league ranks, spending a year with the Single-A West Michigan White Caps in 2011, then in all of the other minor league affiliates in 2012 before reaching Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2013. He was only 21 when he debuted with the Tigers in 2013. Prior to 2014, ranked Castellanos as the #15 prospect. His official rookie season was 2014.

It is important to remember that Nick Castellanos is only 23 years old. In 2015, he was 5.5 years younger than the average MLB player. He will has his 24th birthday during spring training. His 2015 numbers were better than his 2014 numbers. If all goes as expected, he should perform even better in 2016.

As a batter, Castellanos did improve between his rookie season and sophomore season. He batted .259/.394/.700 in 2014 and .257/.407/.711. He hit 11 home runs and 66 RBIs in 2014 and improved to 15 home runs and 73 RBIs in 2015. He added 20 total bases to his hitting stats in 2015 and his plate patience improved slightly with three more walks in 2015 than 2014. He grounded into 21 double plays in 2015, but he was not the only Tiger to do this – even Miguel Cabrera hit 19 GDPs. The only drop from 2014 to 2015 was his offensive WAR, which shifted down slightly from 1.8 to 1.5.

As a defensive player, Castellanos actually did improve between 2014 and 2015. He committed 15 errors in 2014 and 12 in 2015. The league average fielding percentage in 2015 was .958; Castellanos’ average in 2015 was .966. In 2014, his percentage was .950. His dWAR improved from -2.7 in 2014 to -0.6 in 2015.

May 3, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (front) is congratulated by third baseman Nick Castellanos (laughing) after scoring against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to 2014, the last person to play third base was Miguel Cabrera who covered the hot corner in 2012 and 2013. Obviously, Cabrera’s batting statistics do not need to be mentioned as Castellanos is far from being comparable to Cabrera at the plate. But, their fielding statistics at third base are quite similar. In 2012, Cabrera had 13 errors at third base and in 2013, he had 12. His fielding percentage in 2012 was .966 and in 2013, he averaged .958. Keep in mind that Cabrera earned Silver Slugger awards and the AL MVP awards in both 2012 and 2013 (and that Triple Crown award in 2012, too).

When Castellanos was called up to Detroit in the fall of 2013, he only played left field. His stats at the position are limited, but in his 38 innings in left field he had a perfect fielding percentage, making five outs in five chances with zero errors. He did play only left field during his time in Toledo in 2013 where his fielding percentage was .987 with three errors in 224 chances. These numbers do suggest that he could be an asset in the outfield.

Is he that bad? According to the average stats for the entire MLB, he is average. The overall league numbers for 2015 were .254/.405/.721. But he is above average in other stats. For example, he hit 14 more home runs than the average and 69 more RBIs.

Even the best third baseman in 2015, Josh Donaldson, had defensive numbers similar to Castellanos’s numbers. Donaldson’s fielding percentage was .959 and he committed 18 errors with a dWAR of 1.5. Of course, his batting stats were better, which is why he was the AL MVP in 2015. But, he has more years of experience in the majors (4 years) and in the minors (6 years). Donaldson’s defensive statistics in his second MLB season were worse that Castellanos’s numbers. He posted a .961 fielding percentage with 16 errors. He did hit better than Castellanos in his second season.

May 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) celebrates his two run home run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the off-season, Castellanos is one of two players who can cover third base. He has the size to be effective, but he does need to work on his speed and agility. Cabrera would be the only other possibility at third and he has even less agility than Castellanos. It would be interesting to see Castellanos at first and at 6’4 he has the size for the position. The Tigers’ newest addition, Mike Aviles, has even worse numbers than Castellanos and Cabrera.

Castellanos is still a better option than the two youngsters on the roster. Dixon Machado has only played short stop in the minors and the majors. Jefry Marte has played third in the minor leagues, but his numbers in 2015 were not overly impressive with 15 errors and .937 fielding percentage in 779 innings.

Next: The Hole in Left Field Still Remains

According to the numbers of the current players on the team, Castellanos is the best option for third base. His bat is improving and so is his fielding. He is a low-maintenance player in the clubhouse – he does not seem to get caught up in controversies like other young players do. Taking the factual evidence and the intangibles, he is not that bad. Hopefully, he will continue his upward trend and become a powerful presence in the Tigers’ roster.