George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press spoke to Nick Castellanos, the Detroit Tigers' top prospect who is expected to make the team out of spring training. But will it be as an infielder or an outfielder?
A third baseman for his entire career, Castellanos has been playing out-of-position, moved to left field last year due to being blocked at hat his natural position by Miguel Cabrera.
The trade of Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler gives the Tigers positional flexibility they have lacked over the past two seasons. If Cabrera takes over first base, as most expect, it may allow the 21-year-old, right-hand hitting Castellanos to become the team's third baseman of the immediate future.
Castellanos is excited the prospect of playing the hot corner.
"It would be awesome to go back to third. That’s the position they originally drafted me, so of course I feel comfortable there. I don’t mind playing left, either. Whatever they decide to do is out of my control."
Having spent a great deal of time working with minor-league roving instructor Gene Roof to learn the ins-and-outs of playing outfield, Castellanos is happy he has developed the ability to play multiple positions for the big club.
"I’m happy I got the work. Whether I play third or don’t play third, it’s good to know I can play outfield if they want me to."
As are most young players, Castellanos just wants to make the major league club, no matter what the position. Until told otherwise, he is going to continue to prepare to enter the 2014 season as a left fielder, though he will take ground balls.
"We’ll have to see how the situation plays out. Me, as a player, I really don’t have a say. All I can do is prepare myself."
"Now I’ll spend maybe a little more time catching ground balls, until somebody tells me, ‘Don’t worry about it,’"
Castellanos received a cup of coffee with the Tigers last September, hitting .278 (5-for-18) with no homers or RBIs. In 11 appearances, Castellanos was used either an outfielder or DH, never seeing the infield. What time he did spend in the outfield for Tigers, Castellanos looked mediocre at best, extremely uncomfortable at worst, unsurprisingly lacking the instincts of your typical big league left fielder.
You have to believe returning Castellanos to his natural position would be a win-win for the Tigers. Castellanos is not known to be a great fielder, but he's a far better third baseman than outfielder. He may also find himself more comfortable at the plate knowing he doesn't have learn a still very unfamiliar outfield position at the major league level.
It remains to be seen if 'Nick Castellanos, third baseman' is the Tigers' plan for this off season. It may depend upon what position GM Dave Domborwski decides to upgrade with a veteran big leaguer, third base or left field.
Only Dombrowski knows for sure.
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