For almost two weeks now, the Tigers have operated as though their deadline deals hadn’t eliminated them from the slim chance of a wildcard birth. Meanwhile, the fanbase has impatiently waited for signs as to the Tigers’ plans for the roster going forward. The first indication has arrived with Chris McCosky of the Detroit News reporting that Tigers’ third baseman, Nick Castellanos, will begin taking practice in the outfield in the coming weeks.
The move is a welcome one. The acquisition of a major league ready third baseman, in the form of prospect Jeimer Candelario, left Castellanos as a bat without a position going forward. While Castellanos continues to show signs of excellent offensive potential, his defense has continued to be a real liability to the Tigers’ infield.
As Katie Strang of the Athletic reports, Castellanos recognized as much, and was the one who initiated the idea to the team.
Nick Castellanos will begin taking reps in RF today. He brought it up as an idea to both Brad Ausmus and GM Al Avila.— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) August 12, 2017
Now, whether you buy that particular detail or not, Castellanos has been consistent in his willingness to do whatever was best for the team. The Tigers previously attempted to turn him into a corner outfielder in 2012 and 2013, when, as a prospect, Castellanos appeared to be blocked by Miguel Cabrera. Reports in those days were pretty discouraging as to his ability to make that transition. But there are reasons to think the 25 year old former top prospect is better suited to the move at this point.
Castellanos reported to camp this year a little leaner than in previous seasons, and has appeared faster on the basepaths to most observers. He should be able to patrol right field more thoroughly than J.D. Martinez, for example. Castellanos key weakness at third base has been his reaction time and hand-eye coordination on hard hit ground balls. Playing right field should mitigate those concerns to a degree.
Nick Castellanos, your right fielder of the future? pic.twitter.com/hIr4lfhilc— Jordan Horrobin (@JordanHorrobin) August 12, 2017
Switching positions is a difficult process, even for better athletes than Castellanos. It will take a good deal of work the rest of the way this season and over the offseason to prepare him to take over as the Tigers’ starting right fielder in 2018. Castellanos’ willingness to make the move bodes well for him. It may also allow for the Tigers to upgrade at two positions, with Candelario taking over at third base, and Castellanos filling the void left by the departure of Martinez. As a result, the Tigers will be stronger overall defensively, while giving their former third baseman more time to cash in on a consistently promising batted ball profile.