By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Thanks to you, our readers, this segment is turning into exactly what we had hoped. We get more and more comments every day and with them have come a whole host of questions.
Well, we intend to grab from the bag every week and answer at least one every Saturday. This week we have a question to answer regarding the development of our third baseman.
Let’s see what our writers have on this topic. It’s an interesting one.
What does Nick Castellanos need to address? Do you think he can learn how to change?
Holly – It’s been a challenging year for Nick but then again, the same could be said for much of the team. It doesn’t help that this has been a team lacking motivation and direction with additional evidence that hitting discipline has been absent throughout the entire lineup.
Nick’s batting stats are a mixed bag this year with most of the more important stats appearing to be flat or slightly down from last year. However, his fielding stats are more telling with much fewer errors and a higher fielding percentage, some of which may be attributed to having Iggy back this year. He ranks third in both leagues for F% and 11th in Range Factor this year which shows he can up his game, however his fielding still doesn’t pass muster with the “eye test.”
Nick gained 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season to help his offensive game but it slowed him down in the field. In particular, it has hindered his foot speed and ability to turn quickly on balls hit to his side. Castellanos is a big guy – much taller than most third basemen and one of the heaviest – which is a recipe for hindering performance, especially at this position. He needs a bona fide trainer who will help him develop the best physical balance in order to increase speed and agility, which will improve his fielding.
In Nick’s favor is his young age and reports of dedicated off-season training and stints working with Omar Vizquel. He’s shown that he’s willing to do the work but he’s appeared lost much of this year at the plate and with the glove, exhibiting that “deer-in-the-headlights” look.
And this is where I lay blame with the Tigers. Now forgotten is how they moved him back and forth from third base to outfield back to third in order to accommodate the acquisition of Prince Fielder. It was a horrible move and set him back not only in adjusting to a new position, but also impacted his mental adjustment.
I don’t hear any Tigers extolling the virtues of their coaches as I do with other teams. And when was the last time a coach was named to an All-Star team, exempting, of course, those games when Leyland was the manager?
From the manager on down, there is evidence of a laissez-faire attitude taken. And Nick needs more – a lot more. He appears to be the type of guy who welcomes input but he needs a coach who will be pro-active. Let’s hope Al Avila understands this as he evaluates all personnel.
Kurt – Nick Castellanos is a polarizing topic. Nick, for years, was one of those “can’t miss” prospects continually protected by the Tigers. There were rumors that he could be included in many deals over the years, but the team would not part with him. He was touted as their big bat third baseman of the future.
Well, the fun had only started at that point for Nick as the Tiger organization freaked out, signed Prince Fielder to, I think it was, 1 billion dollars a season, and Nick had to start work in the outfield in Toledo.
Things changed on a dime after that and he finally got his chance at third once we regained our senses and shipped Prince and his contract out of town.
So what have we learned about Nick over the last couple seasons? Well, it’s complicated. He can hit but certainly not to the level as advertised. After a solid season last year, most looked for a big jump from him offensively. And it looked like he prepared himself well for that jump as it was quite noticeable in the spring that he looked bigger and stronger. He has struggled most of the season but has warmed of late and shown some more power. But it is difficult to determine if he is trending upward or not, offensively.
His trend defensively has been, to be kind, inconsistent. But I don’t know how kind I can continue to be. Castellanos is just not the most athletic third baseman we have ever had. And it really stands out when compared to the player that stands next to him in the infield. There are plays Nick just cannot make, because he lacks quickness and struggles with his footwork.
So at long last to answer the question, I guess his fundamentals defensively are what he needs to work on to improve. He can work on improving how he positions himself to make plays, but I believe his athleticism, or the lack of it, really restricts him.
There are things you can learn of course but there are things you can’t teach; and you can’t teach athleticism. So unfortunately, Nick has a ceiling and he may be closer to it at the hot corner than we would like.