In the loaded 2010 MLB Draft Nick Castellanos was regarded as one of the brightest hitting prospects available. In those pre-slot days he lasted until the 44th pick due to his bonus demands (fun fact, previous One For the Future subject Taijuan Walker was taken 43rd). He signed a record contract for a Supplemental Round pick and has steadily moved up the Baseball America Top 100 list since his debut. He was a big winner in the Detroit – Texas blockbuster trade as he will assume his natural position with the big club in 2014.
The Tigers aggressively promote their prospects, so it should not surprise that Castellanos was the youngest hitter to receive 300 PA in the Triple-A International League last year. He took to the promotion well and improved in several areas after a lackluster half season in Double-A. He more than doubled his walk rate while cutting his K% from 22.3% to 16.8%. His ISO increased from .118 to .174. He did not top any leader boards but his 121 wRC+ tied for the third highest among players under 25.
Castellanos has not shown enough home run power yet to truly project as a classic slugging third baseman. He hit a few more ground balls than fly balls last year (39.12% vs. 36.92%) but still showed an aptitude for making hard contact. He displayed a solid 21.76% line drive rate and combined that with a spectacular 2.20% popup rate. He used the entire field, hitting 115 balls to right, 89 to center, and 74 to left. The spread is a good indicator for his batting average. It shows he can handle different pitches and does not have glaring holes in his approach. However, he probably needs to pull the ball more to fully tap into his power potential.
As with many young players, Castellanos has not developed on an even incline. He moved from Single-A to High-A to start 2012 and promptly destroyed the Florida State League. A .486 BABIP inflated his ratios but he made real gains in plate discipline and power. A mid-year promotion to Double-A brought struggles in every aspect. In 77 games his wRC+ was only 84. In his post-season evaluation John Sickles noted that he had a “tendency to chase breaking balls” and frightfully compared him to Cubs bust Josh Vitters. After his most impressive statistical performance in 2013, Sickles elevated Castellanos from 67 to 13 in his prospect rankings.
Castellanos’ projections are reserved due to an expected major league adjustment period and his middling in-game home run power. He barrels the ball up well and gets plenty of extra base hits but is still in a growth phase. He is also a below average runner and cannot be counted on for more than five steals. Detroit’s lineup will elevate his counting stats keeping him from busting as badly as a Mike Moustakas. Castellanos should not be drafted as a top 20 third baseman and that makes him useful just in AL-only or super deep leagues. He could finish among the top ten to fifteen at the position if he hits optimistic projections.