Kaiser: Former Hen Castellanos having ‘Major’ successWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
On the evening of Nov. 21, the Detroit Tigers announced they had traded All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. With that move, the general manager of the Tigers, Dave Dombrowski, called a press conference where he announced Detroit’s megastar Miguel Cabrera would move back to first base, leaving third base open for the 22-year-old Nick Castellanos.
Last year for the Toledo Mud Hens, Castellanos posted a batting average of .278 with 18 dingers and 76 runs batted in. A natural third baseman, he was forced to move to the outfield with the expectation of competing for the job of everyday left fielder in Detroit for 2014. Needless to say, all of those plans changed in late November, and he was immediately moved back to third base.
Castellanos has been the top prospect of the Detroit Tigers since mid-2011 and has finally been given the chance to play every day with the big club in 2014. So far the young player has taken the opportunity and ran with it. In a lineup that is stacked with proven talent that includes Cabrera, Kinsler, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson, Castellanos has opened eyes primarily batting in the six hole.
As of April 27, Castellanos is hitting .258 with 3 home runs and 13 RBIs. While those statistics don’t initially look stellar, when you take a closer look at his advanced metrics you will see why he has been so impressive, and why he will only continue to get better.
Castellanos has always been known as a bat-first player due to his ability to hit the ball hard. So far, he has been able to transfer that ability swimmingly into Major League play. Castellanos currently has a 37.7 percent line drive rate on balls that he puts in play. That’s good for second place in the entire MLB. That rate is a bit inflated and will be hard to sustain throughout the course of the entire season, but it gives him an advantage that many young hitters do not have. While many young hitters are used to pulling the baseball, Castellanos features an inside out swing that allows him to drive the ball to the opposite field. That will definitely help him to make semi-seamless adjustments against big league pitching throughout his rookie season. When pitchers try to locate the ball outside to him, Castellanos will gladly drive it over the second baseman’s or — even better — the right fielder’s head.
Another reason to expect improvement in his traditional numbers is that his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is a mere .280, which is the 57th lowest in the MLB among all qualified players. The league average BABIP fluctuates around the .300 mark, and generally increases with the more line drives a player hits. Put simply, Castellanos is having a bit of bad luck whenever he puts the ball in play. Once some of his hits start to find gaps in the field and his BABIP increases, we will start to see an increase in his actual batting average.
Castellanos is an excellent hitter and has already shown flashes of brilliance at the big league level this season. Like most hitters, he will surely go through slumps and have to figure out how to grind through it. Major League pitchers will eventually find some of his weaknesses and he will have to adjust. So far, all signs have pointed to him being more than capable of making those impending adjustments.
Right now Castellanos is hitting the ball hard and showing fans why has been so highly touted since the Tigers drafted him. If he continues to drive the ball to all areas of the field, he could become one of the most dangerous hitters in an already deadly Detroit lineup. The Tigers are infamous for using their top prospects as currency when they are looking for proven big league talent at the trade deadline, but they held onto Castellanos for a reason. Watching young Nick Castellanos grow from a tiger cub into a possible cornerstone of the Tigers is a process that every Detroit fan should be excited for.
Cameron J. Kaiser is a senior at St. Francis de Sales High School. He blogs about the Detroit Tigers on his website ttowntiger.com.
Tags: All-Star, BABIP, balls in play, batting average, Cabrera, Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers, first baseman, Ian Kinsler, Kinsler, Major League Baseball, MLB, Nick Castellanos, Prince Fielder, RBIs, rookie, second baseman, Texas Rangers, third base, Toledo Mud Hens, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson, Victor Martinez, World Series