Nick Castellanos has been the least productive starting third baseman at the plate in Major League Baseball during the 2015 season. Among 25 third basemen with at least 170 plate appearances, Castellanos ranks dead last at 0.4 wins below replacement level.
Castellanos ranks last in the major leagues by a wide margin with negative 11.6 runs of offense, and a 69 wRC+. He is also dead last with -3.6 base running runs (BsR), and is last with an OPS of .619. The major league average OPS for a third baseman is .743. Castellanos also strikes out 25 percent of the time.
Expanding the time frame to include the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Castellanos shows better numbers, with an 89 wRC+, but he is still 0.9 runs below replacement level, ranking 21st of 23 qualified third basemen in the major leagues, and last in the American League.
On the positive side, Castellanos has improved defensively from a historically poor season in the field in 2014. He now has a UZR of + 0.8, and zero defensive runs saved (DRS). He has improved his revised zone rating (RZR) from .587 to .702, meaning that he has converted 70 percent of balls hit to his zone into outs, up from just 59 percent in 2014. These are substantial improvements, and were the bigger concern for many fans heading into this season.
Castellanos, who was drafted out of high school in 2010, is still just 23 years old. The organization is hopeful that he will one day develop into a productive major league hitter. He is one of just five players on the Tigers’ current major league roster who were drafted and developed by the organization. The club needs to develop more players like this to offset the costly practices of signing free agents and trading prospects for established major league players.
The Tigers don’t have any real alternatives for third base on their major league roster. Andrew Romine and Josh Wilson have career numbers that are much worse than Castellanos, especially when it comes to extra base hits. Romine doesn’t have an extra base hit this season. Wilson had a hot bat in Toledo when he was called up, and has had a few base hits with Detroit, but his career numbers show that he is not a major league starter.
In the minor leagues, Jefry Marte is hitting .242/.304/.423 and has 10 errors at Triple-A Toledo. Shortstop Dixon Machado, who made his major league debut this season, is hitting .286/.343/.371 and is the top defensive prospect in the Tigers’ system. He would surely handle a defensive switch quite a bit smoother than Castellanos did when he was relocated prior to the 2014 season. Corey Jones is a left-handed hitter who started the season in Double-A Erie, where he batted .293/.393/.347 in 89 plate appearances. He was promoted to Toledo where he has hit .291/.351/.407 in 98 plate appearances. Jones is a second baseman who has seen limited time at third base, but if he could take those numbers to Detroit, he would be a welcome addition to the Tigers.
Castellanos may one day become a productive major league hitter, but he is not one right now. His struggles at the plate suggest that he will not suddenly become an above average hitter this season, something the Tigers were counting on as they try to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. A change is needed, and the sooner it happens, the better for the team.