2014 Player Previews: 3B Nick Castellanos

The Tigers are handing third base over to stud prospect Nick Castellanos. After giving him a look in the outfield, they'll be returning him to the hot corner, where Miguel Cabrera opens up the spot after moving across the diamond. Is Castellanos ready for the challenge of being an everyday big leaguer?

Nick Castellanos 2013 In Review

2013 Stats
Detroit 18 -0.2 .247 .278 .294 .291 .278 .278 5.6% 0/0 -1 -0.8

The stats can be looked at, but given he only got 18 big league plate appearances in September, a lot in mop-up duty, there's simply not much to glean from the information.

His season at the plate at Toledo was solid, with a .357 wOBA in 595 plate appearances, and that despite trying to learn a new position of left field while being just 21 years of age.

The most encouraging thing about his minor league stint was that despite being young for the league and playing a position he just started practicing at the prior year, he made serious strides at the plate, and while not dominating, saw improvements in all the rate stats that many believe to be future indicators, like walk and strikeout rate, along with an ISO up to .174, a strong sign that the projected power is coming.

2014 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 643 2.0 .277 .316 .320 .429 .327 -6
Steamer 531 1.7 .265 .304 .313 .401 .313 1.9
Oliver 600 0.6 .255 .294 .309 .409 .314 -8

Castellanos will take over at third base, and barring a complete collapse in spring training or something else unforeseen, will be the everyday player at the hot corner. The hope is that his defense is serviceable (which equates to an improvement over last year's third base defense from Miguel Cabrera) and that he'll be able to more than hold his own at the plate.

The projections are somewhat varied on both of those outcomes. ZiPS is the most optimistic, projecting Castellanos to be a 2-win player in his rookie campaign, driven by a solid offensive showing and slightly below average defense.

The other two services are in agreement about Castellanos's output on offense, at a wOBA around .313 (not terrible, especially for a 22-year old rookie, but certainly not what the Tigers are going to hope for), with an average around .260, a respectable walk rate and average power. They're split on his defense though, with Steamer seeing a positive contribution, while Oliver more negative than ZiPS. Steamer's optimism on defense results in a similar end WAR to ZiPS, while Oliver projects a player barely above replacement value.

A split of this magnitude isn't unusual for a rookie player that doesn't even have an extensive track record at the upper levels of the minor leagues. But it does point to the reality that the Tigers are relying heavily on an unproven player to be a part of their everyday lineup, and the risk that comes inherent with that, despite his lofty prospect status.

The Tigers did this in 2010 with Austin Jackson, and found a lot of success. Then they did it again in 2011 with Scott Sizemore, and found that Sizemore wasn't up to the task, and he was demoted and subsequently traded by midseason.

Ultimately, where Castellanos falls on that spectrum will be a key piece of how successful 2014 ends up for the Tigers.

2014 Projections come from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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