by AJ Janetzke
Stats as of July 15, 2018.
Let me tell you a little about the rise of the Detroit Tigers’ current right fielder, Nick Castellanos. The Detroit Tigers drafted a young Nick Castellanos back in 2010 straight out of Archbishop McCarthy High School. I can only wonder how he was back then. It would be as if I got drafted into the MLB right now. That would be crazy. He did commit to playing at Miami University, but the Tigers still signed him with the 44th pick in the draft. Interestingly, Nick started as a shortstop in high school. This shows how he was the leader on his team. He commanded the infield, but as the young guy in the Tigers organization, he would have to change to fit the Tigers’ needs. The Tigers officially moved him over to 3rd base.
Going into the 2011 season, Baseball America rated Nick as the 65th top prospect. He played for the West Michigan Whitecaps in the Class-A Midwest League, batting .312. His impressive numbers earned him the Tiger’s minor league position player of the year. With the start of the 2012 season, Baseball America moved Nick up to the 45th best prospect in baseball and 2nd in the Tiger’s system. Nick started the 2012 season in Class-A Lakeland. In 55 games, he batted .402. The Tigers promoted him to Erie on June 4th where he would bat .264 for the remainder of the season. Starting in the 2012 season, Nick began outfield training. His high batting talent was too much for the Tigers to give up, but with Miguel Cabrera at 3rd and Prince Fielder at 1st, there was no room for him to get promoted.
The Tigers brought Nick up for the 2013 season in left field. He received very little playing time in the beginning of his career which was to be expected as the new guy on a team making a run for the playoffs, but he did manage to bat .278 on the season. 2014 would become Nick’s chance to breakout as a Tiger star. The Tigers traded away Prince Fielder with the plan of shifting Cabrera over to first. This shift left 3rd base wide open for Nick to slide in and take the position. Nick would produce a Tigers’ Rookie of the Year type of season in 2014, hitting his first homerun at Dodger Stadium and batting .259. He finished 8th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. 2014 was just the beginning of something special. Beginning in 2014, Nick has never had a full season where his OBP was under .300.
His official breakout year happened in 2016 where he was hitting over .300 going into the All-star break. In August, a pitch fractured his hand and he had to miss the next several weeks, putting an end to his killer season. He did return later in the season, but too late to make any big impact. Nick exploded in 2017, starting to become the leader he is now. He hit .272 which is nothing to go crazy about, but if you look at his other numbers compared to previous seasons, there was a huge jump in his progression. He had a career high 167 hits which he is on pace to break this year. Also a career high in doubles (36), triples (10), homeruns (26), and RBIs (101), all while drawing 41 walks.
Nick finally has become the Tigers’ new rising number one star in 2018. Praying for no injuries, he is on pace to at the very least get very close to 200 hits, 30 home runs, and 100 RBIs. He’s batting over .300 at this point in the season with an .884 OPS. He has the 4th most hits in the MLB and is 5th in total doubles. These are some possible all-star numbers as the All-Star Break slowly approaches. According to Fangraphs, Nick is the 6th best right fielder in the MLB with a 2.4 WAR, 4th in the AL. While these numbers are very impressive, especially when competing with Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Mitch Haniger, there are other parts about Nick that stand out. My mom noticed one major change in him which stood out in particular to me. That would be his maturity. Watching his interviews, you can see how he knows he is in the spotlight. With Cabrera out of the picture, the Tigers are without a “star” player. Nick has stepped up to that position and taken over the role of leading the team through the season. First he is dealing with the change of position, but now he is also changing into the central focus of the team. He has become a large possible trade option for the Tigers if they continue to try to make moves to rebuild from the ground up. GM Al Avila won’t say much in regards to trading Nick, but says he has an open mind. He said if there is an offer that will make the team better, he would consider trading him away.
All in all, there has been major growth in Nick both in and out of games. I believe that, disregarding any possible trades, Nick could grow to be the face of the franchise for the Tigers and be the backbone of any future success. Nick could be that leader that the new young guys look up to and lead them in the right direction towards a World Series.