The more we read about prospects, the more often little provisos about defense pop up. While approximately 109% of professional baseball players played some combination of shortstop/starting pitcher in their Little League/high school days, very few players have the skills to stick at short as the game speeds up.
The defensive spectrum is a wondrous thing to watch in action. It almost never fails – once a player begins his tumble down towards DH ignominy, it is nearly impossible to reverse course.
Nick Castellanos is the Tigers top prospect, a fine offensive player who the Tigers took with their first pick in the 2010 draft. Detroit moved Castellanos aggresively through their system, rushing the 21-year old to Double-A in 2012.
Though he struggled at this advanced level, there is a lot of belief in Castellanos bat. Baseball America voted him the best hitter for average in the Tigers system, as well as giving him the nod for best strike zone discipline in Detroit’s (admittedly bereft) system.
The Baseball Prospectus scouting staff called him a very, very good offensive prospect with a quick bat with power lurking inside. Keith Law called him the best pure hitter in the minor leagues (pure being scout code for “in spite of his better judgement”, as evidenced by the above swing).
None of these evaluators make much mention of Castellanos’ defensive impact because, well, it looks like he won’t have any. Though still listed as a third baseman (BA thinks he will play third for the 2016 Tigers), Castellanos is well on his way to the outfield.
Jim Leyland has Nick Castellanos starting today’s Grapefruit League outing in left field – his fourth start in the outfield already this spring. Whether the Tigers are getting him playing time in the outfield because of Miguel Cabrera‘s ongoing presence at third base or his own defensive shortcomings matters not, he’s headed out there either way.
Law mentioned Castellanos’ as the kind of player who could stick at third with some patience and hard work but he’ll have to get that work elsewhere. After his promotion to Double-A, Castellanos spent more time in right field than he did at third base. This move to the outfield has long been in the offing.
If Castellanos hits like most people expect, it won’t really matter where on the diamond he plays. Fortunately the Tigers drafted him, as this seems to be their entire organizational ethos. Moving him off third base at just 21 might seem wasteful but he’s a hitting prospect first and foremost. His defensive position is just an excuse to get him in the lineup.