No. 4: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Mar 6, 2015; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) bats against the New York Mets during a spring training baseball game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Castellanos was one of the few weak links in what his first full season in the Tigers’ lineup. He never looked comfortable at the dish, striking out 140 times and posting a slash line of .259/.306/.394.
He was one of the youngest – and least experienced – rookies to hold an everyday job last year, but progressed gradually throughout the season. Despite the less-than-stellar numbers, ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law picked Castellanos as one of the nine breakout candidates in baseball this season. Law wrote:
"He showed early in the year he could hit a fastball, received a steadier diet of off-speed stuff, and by August and September cut his swing-and-miss rates on both sliders and change-ups by significant margins. His swing has always been mechanically sound, but with these improvements in his pitch recognition, similar to what he had to go through in Double-A (another long adjustment period for him), I think he’ll hit close to .300 with more walks and another 5-10 homers."
Despite starting pro ball right out of high school, Castellanos hit .312 in Single-A before posting a .405 average for the Tigers’ Advanced Single-A club. As Law mentioned, Castellanos initially struggled against Double-A pitching before finishing the season with a .264 average over 79 games.
He has shown the ability to make adjustments and progress steadily at each level of pro ball. If Law is right and he continues his ascent to a .300-plus season, Castellanos could quickly become one of the top third basemen in the division – and possibly the American League.
Next: No. 3