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Nicholas Castellanos has defended as expected in right field

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A position change has not improved any advanced metrics for Castellanos.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The strongest motivation for the Detroit Tigers to move Nicholas Castellanos from third base to right field over the offseason was to make room for young Jeimer Candelario. This scenario was oddly similar to Castellanos’s first experience in the majors; the Tigers stuck him in left field upon his call-up in 2013 with third base occupied by Miguel Cabrera.

Typically, players who move across the diamond are known for their glove and positional flexibility. For Castellanos it has been the opposite situation. The outfielder-turned-third-baseman-turned-outfielder has moved around to be a team player, accommodating the complex limitations of recent Tigers’ rosters.

But while moving to right field was a decision based on organizational need not baseball strategy, there were some who hoped that a nice side effect of the change would be a slightly improved defensive performance by Castellanos. By taking away sharply hit balls from third and the tricky footwork that goes along with them, perhaps he could find more success tracking down balls in the outfield.

However, with the 2018 almost at a close, the results are in, and they are not great.

Nicholas Castellanos Defensive Metrics

Season Position UZR Pos Rank DRS Pos Rank
Season Position UZR Pos Rank DRS Pos Rank
2014 3B -10.6 23rd/24 -30 24th/24
2015 3B -5.4 18th/20 -9 17th/20
2016 3B -2.2 14th/18 -11 17th/18
2017 3B -7.6 18th/18 -14 18th/18
2018 OF -9.7 59th/64 -17 60th/64

The numbers have not been pretty for Castellanos and they remain that way through the position change. Both Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) have consistently ranked him as one of the worst defenders at his position over the course of his career. Anyone watching the games probably already had this opinion of him, but the numbers solidify what the eyes have seen.

During his four seasons at third base, Castellanos averaged -6.45 UZR and -16 DRS, around 18th and 19th among qualified defenders in these metrics. Not only was he a pretty lousy defender on the left side of the infield, he was arguably the worst player at the position during his tenure there.

The Tigers likely felt that they had nothing to lose by moving him to the outfield, and for the most part that may be true. Castellanos has performed slightly worst in UZR (-9.7) about about the same in terms of DRS (-17), but he has been involved in a higher number of plays; his current total of 179 has already surpassed his 165 average over the past four years.

Baseball is still searching for a definitive defensive metric, but almost every statistic dislikes Castellanos in the field. Not only do UZR and DRS grade him poorly, but Outs Above Average (OOO) does as well, ranking him the absolute worst defender in baseball this season, regardless of position. So for anyone hoping that a move to right field would solve some of his fielding woes, that does not seem to be the case.

The one bright spot of Castellanos’s move is the inclusion of Candelario in the lineup. The young third baseman has been fine at the position — and much better than his predecessor was — posting 0.8 UZR (ninth of 19) and -4 DRS (15th). More important is his 95 wRC+, which is why the Tigers really want him in the lineup. Even with the struggles of Castellanos in the outfield, on the whole the move looks like the right decision.