Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
A month ago, I thought this was a somewhat silly question to entertain - Nick Castellanos had made dramatic strides with his defense, and while he was off to a slow start at the plate, I assumed that with some time and some adjustments with additional time dedicated to his offensive game, we'd see his offense rebound. Instead, the first few weeks of June got even worse, and up until a recent stretch where he's hit .400 over the past few games, he was hitting under .200 and below replacement level production. Castellanos is obviously struggling, and isn't producing at the level the Tigers need an everyday player to produce. But Castellanos also received plenty of minor league at-bats on his rise up the ladder, and had a solid debut season. He can hit, and he can hit big league pitching, he just hasn't these first few months. So, rather than sending him down and hope he regains confidence and makes mechanical adjustments, I'd simply start to let him compete for his own job at the big league level - so long as Andrew Romine keeps hitting, he receives more playing time, and Castellanos finds himself more on the bench, working on his swing in the cages and in batting practice. If he's unable to beat out a utility infielder for playing time when his job is on the line, facing inferior pitching in Toledo I don't think is suddenly going to help, either. Plus, there simply isn't anyone behind him that I think would suddenly provide a dramatic upgrade on him from Toledo, meaning the team isn't going to suddenly get better by benching him. So, I keep Castellanos in Detroit, and let him fight for his playing time.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
Castellanos offers a sticky situation for the Tigers. I've talked to many people in the industry about how the club should handle him right now and there is a definitive split within the industry. Many feel he should be challenged to figure things out at the big league level, while an equal number sit on the other side of the fence believing he should be allowed to regain his swing, focus, and confidence at Triple-A. Castellanos is a gifted natural hitter that is held back by his pitch recognition and approach, two things that are currently his undoing at the Major League level. He is not going to "improve" against Triple-A arms but he could regain some confidence and re-emerge at the big league level with his former swagger. While that may carry value to Castellanos and the organization, I tend to believe his development needs to occur in Detroit at this time. Just in the last few days, Castellanos has found a little more solid contact. He needs to continue to see high quality pitching that forces him to learn and adapt, ultimately making him a quality big league player. The Tigers are hanging around in the standings even with Castellanos limping along at the bottom of the lineup, and they as long as they remain within shouting distance, they should continue to ride their young, talented third baseman and give him the support he needs to develop at the game's highest level.
James Chipman, Senior Correspondent
Absolutely. As I write this, Castellanos is barely above the Mendoza line, batting .217 with a .594 OPS over 235 at-bats this season. He's striking out in over 25% of his at bats, and he's currently a -0.8 WAR player. Advanced metrics will tell you that his defense has improved (thanks largely in part to Jose Iglesias), but let's be real, Castellanos is far from an asset defensively. He's walking at his typical below-average rate, so it's not like he's giving the team any added value there either. Furthermore, this isn't just a slump; Castellanos hasn't hit higher than .234 in any month this season. He also has only hit higher than .250 over a month's time just once in his big league career; back in June of 2014. Listen, I'm not saying Castellanos can't provide future value to the big league club; there's potential, and his work ethic is outstanding; he clearly needs to iron out his issues though in Toledo.
Chris Brown, Staff Writer
I'd send him down. I tend to look at three things when considering whether a young player should go back to the minors. Is there a decent replacement ready to contribute? Is the move likely to help the team win now? And will the demotion help the player get better? The two likely replacements for Castellanos would be Dixon Machado or Jefry Marte, and neither is an ideal fit. Marte offers some intriguing power potential, but it may not play at all in the majors, and Machado's value would likely come exclusively from his superior glove. That said, Castellanos is performing well under replacement level right now, so there's a decent chance either player would offer a short-term upgrade. And I do think a brief demotion to AAA would actually help Castellanos at this point. There might not be a whole lot he can physically take away from facing the inferior competition in the minors, but it might be a nice mental break for him, and a not-so-subtle reminder that the big leagues are all about production. I'm reminded a bit of Brennan Boesch, who was never the caliber of prospect Castellanos was, but nevertheless experienced both extreme success and extreme failure in the majors. I've occasionally lamented the fact that the Tigers never sent Boesch back to Toledo when he was in the midst of his frequent struggles. It may not have mattered at all, but continuing to run him out for the Tigers on a regular basis didn't help him either. I'd hate to see the same scenario play out with Castellanos.
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