At the Park: Scouting the Mud Hens

With just a couple of weeks left in the minor league season, it's time to check-in at how things are going for the Tigers Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens. How is Nick Castellanos's defense coming along? What about his adjustments at the plate? What is Hernan Perez working on after returning to the minors? Who else is impressing? All that, and more!

Nick Castellanos, Work in Progress in Left Field

Just like it was this spring, defense from Castellanos is a work in progress. Some moments he shows signs of growth, other moments it's a Delmon Young-like adventure for which no one is certain will ever get better.

On Monday night, he had no issues recording three put outs in the game, though none of the plays required more than 8 or 10 easy steps in any direction. He was able to read the ball off the bat, albeit a split second later than he realistically needs to for balls he'll have to move for.

Scouts and observers that have watched him multiple times this season have remarked that he'll show moments where he appears to be figuring it out, and then make a blunder so porous it'd make them wonder if it was his first time standing in left field if they didn't know any better.

The question that gets asked time and time again by Tigers fans; could Castellanos play defense in the majors right now?

The simple answer; sure. Just don't expect it to be much better than bad. He's not a great athlete, doesn't move particularly well in space, and still doesn't get good reads and take the correct first step. His arm strength is solid, at least. In other words, he's not bad enough that the Tigers wouldn't put him out there this season, but he's not good enough that it won't make people wonder why they did.

Castellanos at the Plate

In his first at-bat of the game, on the very first pitch, Castellanos took a fastball and belted a no-doubt home run off the Bud Light sign on the top of the scoreboard in left center. The swing was the sort of easy power that Nick has displayed at times, but that you're starting to see more of as he matures physically.

Beyond the power that re-affirms the belief that Castellanos is going to be the complete hitter that many envisioned when the Tigers drafted him back in 2010, he's showing signs of growth. While it was his only real hit of the night (a routine groundball to third ricocheted off the third baseman's mitt), he showed more patience in his at-bats, and a willingness to wait for the right pitch.

James Chipman will have more in a feature with Mud Hens' manager Phil Nevin on Castellanos and the adjustments he's been making this season at the plate.

Perez Ready for the Bigs in 2014?

One big question mark heading into the off-season is what the Tigers plan to do at second base, with Omar Infante a free agent. A question becomes, is Hernan Perez ready to assume the job every day?

Struggles in Detroit aside… the consensus in Toledo seems to be skewing ‘probably not.'

Perez went 2-for-5 on Monday night, but his double was a fly ball to right center that would have been an easy catch – that is if the Braves' right fielder was thinking about anything related to baseball and catching it off the crack of the bat (so it can go in late August in the minors, when the end of a long season is in sight and "senioritis" of sort can set in). It was quite simply a ball that was really an out, but goes down as a double in the books. His lone good at-bat came in the sixth inning, when on an inside fastball he kept his hands to get solid contact, and hit a line single right back up the middle.

Unfortunately, such things were few and far between. Adding to it a base running blunder (taking off for third base on a ball hit to shortstop with no one on first and no force in play and Castellanos on deck) and it becomes a very difficult proposition.

Despite a few minor issues in Detroit, his defense is good, making one play where he quickly ranged to his right, got the ball behind the bag at second base, making the grab and throw all in one motion put the skill on display. But can the Tigers really afford to have a middle infield full of defense, and extra light on offense?

Other Quick Hitters

… It'll be a shock if Danny Worth isn't up in Detroit when September rolls around. He doesn't have much power (hit just one ball out of the infield on Monday), and is nothing more than a utility infielder. But he doesn't give at-bats away, and can be an above average defender at second, third and shortstop.

Jordan Lennerton has quietly had one of the better all-around seasons for a Toledo first baseman. Does everything well at the plate, and is a very good defender at first, even making a couple of highlight reel plays. It's highly unlikely he will ever become an everyday big league first baseman, but in another organization without an established star, he'll probably get a look.

… Ronny Paulino still wasn't acquired to be a big league player, but the work he's done in Toledo has been impressive. Despite being an August acquisition, he's quickly assimilated to learning the pitching staff and working with the coaching staff to know what to be working on with whom. He may not be a big leaguer any longer, but the guys throwing to him might be, and their August development can be just as important as their May development.


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