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Nick Castellanos: Post-hype breakout candidate

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Nick Castellans hasn't been the hitter we all thought he would be when he was a prospect. That may change in 2016.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos was considered one of the top prospects in the game three short years ago, as Baseball America ranked him as their 21st ranked prospect in the game heading into the 2013 season. Here is how his tools graded out according to the Baseball America scouts, from their Top 100 rankings which you can see in the previous link:

21

Nick Castellanos

3b/of, Tigers

Age: 21. ETA: 2014.

Bat: 70. Power: 55. Speed: 40. Defense: 50. Arm: 55.

Castellanos was ranked by Baseball America as their 65th best prospect in the game after the 2010 season, 45th ranked prospect in 2011, 21st ranked in 2012 and 25th ranked in 2013, so plenty was expected from him, especially at the plate once he got the call to the big leagues. As you can see from the grades in the table above, Castellanos' best tool was, and still is, his hit tool. which graded out as a 70 in the minors. He also has decent power, which graded out as a 55 on the 20-80 scale, meaning he could hit .300 with 20+ home runs annually.

Since his call up to the big leagues late in 2013, we have yet to see that type of production from Castellanos, but the soon to be 24 year old might be on the cusp of a breakout in 2016. Over the past two seasons, Castellanos has shown to be a .255-.260 hitter with 10-15 home run power, which is to say, he has underperformed what most expected from him, and his current ADP fully reflects the disappointment.

Season

Team

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

2014

Tigers

148

579

11

50

66

2

6.20%

24.20%

0.135

0.326

0.259

0.306

0.394

0.307

94

2015

Tigers

154

595

15

42

73

0

6.60%

25.50%

0.164

0.322

0.255

0.303

0.419

0.311

94

2016

Steamer

138

569

16

62

68

3

6.80%

21.80%

0.162

0.323

0.269

0.321

0.431

0.325

104

2016

Fans (21)

153

624

21

74

79

3

7.40%

22.10%

0.188

0.321

0.272

0.325

0.46

0.337

112

Total

- - -

313

1192

26

93

139

2

6.30%

24.60%

0.147

0.324

0.257

0.304

0.405

0.308

94

Castellanos showed improved power last season, albeit only slightly, but he hit better in the second half of the season. After a sluggish first half which saw him hit .243-.287-.372 with 6 home runs and 38 RBI in 328 plate appearances, he hit .269-.322-.478 with 9 home runs and 35 RBI in just 267 plate appearances in the second half. His OPS improved from .658 in the first half to .800 in the second, his HR/FB% jumped from 6% to 13%, and his wRC+ improved as well, from 76 to 116 in the second half. His hard hit and line drive rates improved in the second half, so he could carry that into the 2016 season.

Jeff Seidel, from the Detroit Free Press, wrote about Castellanos on Sunday:

Castellanos will enter this season with a much different attitude and approach — a direct result of what he went through last season.

Midway through June, Castellanos was in a horrible skid, hitting .217. He was overly aggressive and swinging at bad pitches, striking out 63 times in 63 games. He started tinkering with his swing, thinking the problem was physical. But it wasn't.

Over his next 87 games, Castellanos learned to swing less but make more contact — simply by being more selective — and he hit .283 with 11 home runs. What changed?

"I would say approach," Castellanos said. "Stay calm and swing at strikes. That's all I have to do. When I get pitches in the zone, I'm pretty good. When I chase pitches out of the zone, I'm not very good. I gotta relax and make pitchers throw strikes."

It sounds like Castellanos went through what many young prospects go through. He was having difficulty making adjustments at the plate, and then things started clicking for him at the plate in the second half of last season. He hit .280 or higher in each of the last two months of the season, and his second half power surge gave us a glimpse of what kind of power he has, but it still hasn't fully blossomed for him.

I think we see the second half Castellanos in 2016, and I could see him possibly exceeding the "FANS" projection for him in the table above. I think we could see a breakout season from him this season, a season where he hits .280-.290 with 20-25 home runs and drives in 80 runs is not out of the question.

Last season, we saw eight third baseman hit 20 or more home runs and drive in 80 or more runs, and Castellanos could join that group in 2016.