Nick Castellanos is one lucky guy. As the youngest position player on the Detroit Tigers roster, he gets to play every day with greats like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Ian Kinsler.
Playing alongside Detroit Tigers greatness comes with many advantages. He gets to learn from them each day. He gets to enjoy their stories and their leadership. Unfortunately for Castellanos, playing next to the iconic players also means that he gets compared to them. In his first two years in the majors, the greats have made Castellanos’s weaknesses easy to see.
Luckily, Castellanos has age on his side. He has time to improve his game, which is what he is set to do in 2016. While many of his teammates are fighting the decline that comes with age, Casty is coming into his prime. He will turn 24 on March 4. The next youngest position player with a guaranteed roster spot is Jose Iglesias who turned 26 in January. Both infielders began their tenure in the Major League at age 21. Even the young catcher James McCann is two years older than Casty.
Castellanos was picked by the Tigers in the first round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. When he was drafted, he had just graduated from high school in Southwest Ranches, Florida. He played a handful of games in the 2010 season in Lakeland. In 2011, he played a full season at third base with the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps where he batted .312/.367/.436. with 158 hits. In 2012, he split the season playing third base and right field with the Single-A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers and the Double-A Erie Seawolves. He was a star in Lakeland with an OPS of 1.014. He dropped to .678 in Erie. He reached Triple-A Toledo in 2013 he played left
He reached Triple-A Toledo in 2013 he played left field with a .987 fielding percentage. He hit 18 home runs and batted a slash of .276/.343/.450. His performance earned him a call-up to Detroit in the fall where he played left field. The following year, Castellanos earned the full-time third base position after Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers and Cabrera was sent to first base.
In his two full seasons in Detroit, Castellanos has earned more criticism than praise. On defense, he has committed 27 errors at third base. For comparison purposes, the reigning AL MVP, Josh Donaldson has committed 41 errors in the last two seasons. Manny Machado with the Baltimore Orioles had 19 errors at third base in 2015. Despite the Castellanos’ fewer errors, he does not have the range that these two top defensive players have at the hot corner.
Castellanos has received limited praise for his performance at the plate. He hit 15 home runs in 2015, which is 4 more than he hit in 2014. He started the 2015 season in a nasty slump, but he emerged and became a force in the second half. Once he figured out how to hit again, he doubled his home runs and he even had a game with four hits. His fielding also improved.
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For a young player, being able to recover strongly from a slump can be a life-changing event. Now that he is in Lakeland, it is evident that he has slimmed down looking more athletic than he has in previous years. For athletes, lighter weight translates into added quickness. The lack of agility at third has been his biggest problem. According to Jeff Seidel with the Detroit Free Press, Castellanos looks different than he has in the previous two seasons. Omar Vizquel said: “He’s moving really good.”
Vizquel had more kind words for Castellanos: “This year, I think he will be an average or above-average third baseman. I really believe that. The way he works out, his work habits have improved a lot during the last couple of years.”
Even though Castellanos is young, he is a married father of one. His son Liam is two. In another piece from Jeff Seidel, Castellanos commented on how being a father has affected him: “I’m definitely more mature than when I walked through those doors, just in life. I’ve experienced so much more. I own my own house now. I have a family. I’m a dad. I’m married. All that stuff changes you.
Speaking of family, Nick’s younger brother Ryan Castellanos is a new member of the Detroit Tigers organization. Nick proudly got to make the call to his little bro during the draft:
As a fan, I’m picking Castellanos to be my break-out player in 2016. From the work Castellanos put into his offseason, it appears that he is hoping for that honor, too. He seems to have learned that it takes more than luck to be a star in the MLB.