Nick Castellanos should stick at third base

If you think it's a problem for Detroit that Nick Castellanos is "blocked" by Miguel Cabrera, think again. That's a wonderful "problem" to have. (Photo by HueyTaxi/Roger DeWitt)

Yesterday, we learned from Lynn Henning of the Detroit News that Miguel Cabrera hearts Nick Castellanos.

"Got great hands, got a very good idea of hitting," Cabrera said Wednesday."He's got a great feel. He's got a chance to be a very good player."

Wonderful news, right? Cabrera is a terrific batter. As Henning points out, Cabrera should have a great understanding of the mechanics that go into a great swing. That he likes Castellanos should be nothing but good news.

Yet, the normal story line involving the two is that Cabrera's move to third base means that Castellanos will have to find somewhere else to play. We've seen that mentioned a few times in our comments section. We've seen it suggested that Castellanos move to second instead. We've even seen normally sensible beat writers do a story about it. You name it.

So, since David Tokarz is too busy with grad school, I'm going to have to step up and say something about it.

Stop the insanity, people.

Just because Cabrera, today, Feb. 24, is slated to play third base for the Detroit Tigers, does not mean Castellanos no longer has a position to man when he reaches the major leagues. For one, this isn't the NBA. This isn't the NFL. Prospects take a few years to make it to the big leagues -- especially those prospects drafted out of high school. Castellanos had a terrific season at Low-A West Michigan, to be sure. But expecting him to be a regular in the Tigers' lineup in 2013 is a mistake. Let's let him develop a bit more, first.

And, let's face it, by the time Castellanos reaches the major leagues third base may be open for the taking. We're optimistic about Cabrera's return to the position, but we really don't have enough information to know for sure whether this thing will actually work. It's still an experiment, really. Even if Cabrera can play third base at an acceptable level (given how his bat compares to the Tigers' other options at the position), it still seems likely it will be rather below average. Two or three years down the line, you could be looking at Cabrera as the DH.

Finally, we don't even know if Castellanos will be a third baseman a few years from now, either. Although he plays at the hot corner now, it's possible he'll find himself in the outfield in the long run. He was drafted as a shortstop but quickly projected to be at best a third baseman and possibly in the corner outfield.

However, moving Castellanos too soon would be a grave mistake, and the Tigers undoubtedly know it. TigsTown.com's Mark Anderson recently wrote that Castellanos has the ability to stick at third. Pushing Castellanos down the positional ladder too early cuts into the advantage Detroit possesses with him at third. It's not as if the Tigers are overflowing with infield prospects -- well, infield prospects who can hit the ball anyway.

I'm not keen on anyone's ideas about moving Castellanos to second base, either. If the Tigers thought he profiled as a second baseman, they would have moved him there instead of at third base. Just think of what it would be like to have a slugging second baseman. You know they did. And then they decided he's a third baseman. Castellanos' pre-draft profiles note his lack of range at short. That's one reason he fits at third. (His arm is another.)

Me, I'd like to see Castellanos keep playing at third for as long as possible. What's the worst that can happen? Cabrera succeeds as a third baseman and the Tigers actually have positional depth in the infield? That sure sounds a lot better to me than moving Castellanos right now only to find out Cabrera can't stick at the position. Given the lack of positional prospects, Detroit would have to settle for a can't-hit-good-glove guy. The last Tiger like that seemed to annoy quite a few people.

So can we all just let this topic die a swift death for now? It's way too early to worry about it. Let's revisit it in a year or two after we've learned a lot more about where the Tigers will stand a few years down the line.

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