Nick Castellanos | Third Base | #9
Age: 21 (22 next month)
2014 salary: Pre-arbitration
2013 statistics: .276/.343/.450, 18 HR, 37 2B, 1 3B, 4 SB, 54 BB, 100 K (with AAA Toledo)
Projected role: Starting third baseman
Nick Castellanos is one of the most important players on the 2014 Tigers, and also one of the great unknowns. The number 25 prospect in baseball – according to Baseball America, anyway – is likely to be the opening day third baseman for 2014. They’ll need him to contribute offensively for him to hold down the job. He’s been moved back to third base from left field now that he’s no longer blocked from the position. His major league experience amounts to eighteen plate appearances last September. Really, all we have to go off is his minor league numbers.
Some have projected that Castellanos has 30 homer power and can hit .300 in the majors, but that’s prime Castellanos, not 22-year-old-first-season-in-the-majors Castellanos. He had a successful 2013 with Toledo, putting up a .357 wOBA. It will be very hard, however, for him to replicate that in the majors, at least immediately. The average might drop 20 points. He might not hit quite as many home runs. He might strike out more.
It is, of course, important to note that, say, .250/.310/.410 isn’t awful, particularly for a 22 year old in his rookie season. That said, this is a Tigers team that remains focused on winning now. Would the Tigers search for a July upgrade if Castellanos were OPSing around .700 and send him back to Toledo or sit him on the bench, or would they ride it out with the rookie?
ZIPS thinks Castellanos will put up a wOBA of .327 this year, which is about where Austin Jackson was in 2013. It also thinks he’ll hit .277, which strikes me as rather optimistic considering he hit .276 at Toledo last year (the Tigers would probably be thrilled if he managed to pull off .277/.320/.429 this year). Steamer is a bit more realistic, projecting .265/.313/401. CAIRO goes with .258/.314/.389. These don’t seem too terribly far-fetched.
Castellanos is still learning. He’ll have to adjust to the big league level and he’s still working on his defense (according to John Lowe, he spent the offseason taking 600 ground balls a day at third virtually every day). Castellanos has a big job in 2014, and we’ll have to wait and see if he’s up to it. The Tigers will certainly hope so, as they don’t currently have much of a contingency plan if he isn’t.