by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Change is coming in Detroit. After falling short of the World Series in 2013 the Tigers watched Jim Leyland step down as their manager. While it’s hard to consider the year a failure, they did fall short of their goal and it’s easy to imagine the managerial change being the first of many dominoes.
One thing that would appear to be an almost lock to happen would be regular playing time for Nick Castellanos. The team’s top prospect, he was given a cup of coffee in the Majors in 2013 but spent the bulk of his season at Triple-A where be hit .276 with 18 HR and 76 RBI over 533 AB.
On the surface the numbers aren’t very impressive, but as you dig in things really start to look appealing. Keep in mind that he’s still just 21-years old, putting him among the youngest players at the level. He also belted 37 doubles and had a 22.4% line drive rate (the league average was 18.9%). In fact, he has always hit the ball hard (22.0% line drive rate over the past three years in the minors), adding to the intrigue.
He took a major step forward in the strikeout department (16.8%) and also improved his walk rate (9.1%). Throw in a .307 BABIP, despite his elevated line drive rate, and there is definite upside in the average department.
You also would expect an improvement in his power as he matures as well. Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for his Tigers’ Top 10 prospect list) recently said:
“Castellanos plus bat speed, approach, and physicality not only hint towards future plus power but also a plus hit-tool as well. He doesn’t have a huge leveraged swing but more of a level line drive approach that based on his strength and bat speed, provide distance to his balls. While he could have a couple of peak seasons of 30 home runs, a more reasonable projection is 25 home runs but with 35-40 doubles and a .500 slugging percentage.”
Interestingly, prior to 2013 Baseball America had a very similar sentiment:
“He recognizes pitches well, lets balls travel deep and has no problems catching up to premium velocity. He makes loud contact and can hit all types of pitching. Castellanos has a tall, well-proportioned frame with wiry strength. His natural power is to right-center field, but he truly uses the entire ballpark. Though more advanced pitchers got him to chase sliders away in Double-A, he has shown the ability to make adjustments. Overall, he has the upside of a .300 hitter who could hit 40 doubles and 20-25 homers annually.”
So while the scouting reports have stayed similar, the competition has grown more difficult and the underlying metrics have improved. That’s an extremely promising combination. Is it fair to expect him to reach .300/25 HR levels immediately? Can we reasonably expect him to slot in sixth behind Victor Martinez on Opening Day? Of course not, but by year’s end he could easily get to must use status.
There are going to be some growing pains, but the potential is there to make Castellanos a must own option in all five-outfielder formats. While you may not chose to start him in April, you may not have a choice come September.
Consider him a viable late round selection in all formats and a must own in any type of keeper format.
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Minor League Central, Prospect 361, Baseball America