The 2012 Futures Game MVP, Castellanos batted an astronomical .405 in Single-A that year. He struggled upon being promoted to Double-A, but regained his success at the plate at Triple-A in 2013. While he didn't post spectacular numbers, he still ranked in the top three in the International League in hits, runs, home runs, doubles and RBI.
Castellanos has skyrocketed through the minor league levels since being drafted by the Tigers in the first round in 2010 thanks to his history of posting monster numbers in the minor leagues. But his fantasy value extends beyond simply solid numbers.
Castellanos also has exceptional fantasy value because he'll be hitting in a Tigers lineup that ranked second in the majors in runs last year. Granted, they'll be without Prince Fielder, but Ian Kinsler isn't a terrible downgrade. Castellanos figures to have Victor Martinez, Andy Dirks and Alex Avila hitting ahead of him, but he could easily move his way up in the lineup if he can prove his worth.
Most importantly, Castellanos looks to have a starting spot at third base locked up, for now. Miguel Cabrera will move back to first base thanks to the loss of Fielder, freeing up third base, according to Dave Dombrowski.
"We're looking at Nick Castellanos to be our third baseman," Dombrowski said, per Chris Iott. "We think he'll make that transition for us. He's a natural infielder...We think he's read to step in and play for us at the big-league level."
Castellanos' only real competition at third base is Don Kelly, who batted .222 last year and has a career OPS of .290. Additionally, Kelly features as more of a backup outfielder, though he is capable of playing just about everywhere. So really, that's not much competition. Also, aside from plenty of playing time drastically increasing his fantasy value, Castellanos' numbers should blossom because he can play without the pressure of a backup breathing down his neck.
In terms of how Castellanos can actually contribute fantasy-wise, his main value comes in his ability to drive in and score runs. He didn't hit for a high average at the higher levels in the minors, but he's shown his ability to be a solid run producer. Castellanos' power is about average (18 home runs in 533 at-bats in Triple-A in 2013), but his gap-hitting ability is tremendous. In 410 minor league games, he has 107 doubles, which played a big role in producing his 76 RBI last year (in only 134 games; that translates to just under 92 in a 162-game season).
Castellanos is currently MLB.com's 11th-ranked prospect. He has plenty of potential, and he'll have the opportunity to show it. For that, he should be on your list of sleepers in 2014.