2014 Player Capsule: 3B Nick Castellanos

TigsTown continues its look at the key contributors from the 2014 season and what their 2015 outlook is. One of the new members to the everyday lineup, Nick Castellanos had a rookie season with mixed results, showing the potential at the plate that justified his lofty prospect status, but struggling to re-acclimate to the hot corner.

Nick Castellanos 2014 Year in Review

2014 Projections and Performance
Perf/Proj 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
Actual 579 -0.5 .259 .326 .306 .394 .307 -16.3

As is usually the case for most rookies, it was a bumpy first season as an everyday player for Castellanos. At the plate, while he wasn’t a force, he held his own, and showed the sort of promise many were expecting to see. His .307 wOBA and 94 wRC+ aren’t anything to write home about, in fact, they’re below average. But it was his first real taste of facing big league pitching on a daily basis, and just 22 years old, he’s still developing and filling out physically. It’s reasonable to believe that some of his 35 doubles and triples will end up going for home runs as he matures, and that his sound swing will allow him to strike the ball more authoritatively.

Basically, for his age/experience/potential, his offense was right around where most of the projections had him coming into the year, and for those that watched him, they could clearly see the potential was there.

On the other hand, the hope was that Castellanos could provide the club with average defense (compared to what Miguel Cabrera gave them last year at the hot corner), making him a roughly two win player. His defense was nowhere near average unfortunately, as he struggled mightily. His defensive score was as bad as Kinsler’s was good, and he was worth a -30 in defensive runs saved, effectively costing the Tigers three games with poor defense alone.

It was reasonable to expect some struggles there, because while a good athlete he spent all of 2013, and most of 2012, transitioning to left field, only to be thrust back at the hot corner after last November’s trade of Prince Fielder, and the return of Cabrera to first. But a -30 in DRS, and a -19 UZR/150, brings into question whether or not Castellanos can actually play third base long term.

Nick Castellanos 2015 Outlook

Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
Free Agent ETA: After 2019 Season

On the upside for the Tigers, there is little financial risk with Castellanos, as he’s still under team control for five years, and won’t even be arbitration eligible until 2017. Cost certainty and value here is an important factor, as the Tigers aren’t spending significant money to bring him along.

The offensive productivity should take a step forward in year two as you’d expect a player to do after a rookie campaign. He’ll have gotten a year to get his feet wet, learn how pitchers are going to adjust to him, and how he can make adjustments back. With that, plus physical development, you’d expect Castellanos to become an above average player at the plate, but probably not an All-Star level yet, as is his ceiling.

But the defense is going to be heavily scrutinized. It’s one thing to have a bad year while adjusting to a new position, a new speed of the game, and everything else that comes with being a big league rookie. But to struggle like he did brings in concerns if he has the natural instincts and ability to handle the spot long-term – the same concerns that were part of the reason that he was sent to the outfield in 2012. The expectation isn’t that he’ll be a Gold Glover, but he’ll need to make some significant strides forward with his glove that get him close to being a net-even player defensively if he can be the Tigers future third sacker for a decade, or more.

2014 Projections came 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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