Every Friday I will be taking a look at a prospect in the lower levels of the minors who could be on his way up very quickly, either to a new level or up toward the top of prospect ranking lists. This week's prospect is pretty well known at this point, but his performance is starting to catch up to the reports. That prospect? Detroit Tigers' 3B prospect Nick Castellanos.
Weight: 210 lbs
Age as of End of 2012: 20
On 40-man roster: No
Castellanos was the Tigers' first round draft pick in the 2010 draft, and ended up signing for a bonus north of $3 million. He appeared in 7 games that year for the Tigers' GCL affiliate, and was given a full season assignment in the Midwest League for the 2011 season. He got off to a slow start last year, as he hit just .188/.232/.219 in the month of April there. That could be partially attributable to playing in cold weather primarily for the first time. From May 1st on, he hit .330/.386/.469 with 44 extra base hits. For the season, he finished with a .312/.367/.436 slash line.
What Does He Bring To The Game?
A shortstop primarily in high school, Castellanos was converted to 3B immediately upon signing. Here's some of what Kevin Goldstein had to say about him in his top 11 for the Tigers:
Castellanos's hit tool stands out. He has a decent approach at the plate and a quick bat with excellent hands. He has long arms and a knack for hard contact, and some scouts project 20-plus home runs out of him once his skinny frame fills out. He's improving at third base to the point where scouts think he can stay there, and a plus arm helps his cause.
From Marc Hulet of Fangraphs:
His frame hints at future 20-25 home run potential but he knocked just seven balls over the fence in '11. He showed good gap power with 36 doubles. If he can trim the strikeouts and improve his approach, he has the raw skills to hit for both power and average. In the dirt Castellanos shows good actions considering he's fairly new to the position after playing shortstop in high school. He has solid arm strength and good range.
Where Is He This Season?
Castellanos is currently with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Detroit's High-a affiliate in the Florida State League. Through 24 games, he is leading the FSL in batting average, OPS, is second in slugging percentage and on-base percentage and doubles. He currently has a .417/.453/.583 slash line with 14 runs scored, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 18 runs batted in, and is 1 for 2 on stolen base attempts. In 22 games at 3B, he has made 6 errors against 63 chances so far.
What Could His Path to the Majors Be?
There really isn't a reason to rush Castellanos more than a level a year at this point. If he continues to hit over .400 for another month, we could see him moved to AA by the end of the year, but there's no immediate need up in Detroit. The Miguel Cabrera experiment will continue for the foreseeable future (whether or not it ought to is an entirely different matter), and with Castellanos still in High-A, it may not be relevant.
Interestingly, if Castellanos does end up going a level per season, he would reach the Majors in 2015 - the first season after Victor Martinez's contract expires, and the last season of Miguel Cabrera's current deal. If the team decides that Castellanos is ready to start the 2015 season, he could take over at 3B and permanently move Cabrera to the vacated DH spot.
What Could He Do When He Arrives?
It seems like he will have the potential to hit for a high batting average (.290+) with some power (15-20 HR), with the potential for peaks above .300 and 20 HR at points in his career.
Castellanos looks like a legitimate third baseman both for real life and fantasy purposes. He probably won't be in Detroit for at least two to three more seasons, if he doesn't become a trade chip for the team at a later date. I like seeing the extra base hits from last year, even if they only translated to 7 home runs. The strikeout rate is a bit concerning, but he has shown slight improvement in that category this year (19.3% vs 23% last year).
Overall, he sounds like there are parts of his game that are still a bit raw, but others that are advanced for his age and level. He profiles to me as a top-10 3B once he gets to the Majors, and should definitely be on the radar of dynasty league owners if he is not already owned.