Selected by the Detroit Tigers in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft (No. 44 overall) out of baseball powerhouse Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida, Castellanos signed at the then-mid-August deadline for a record $3.45 million. Although he was a shortstop in high school, his lanky 6’4” frame and lack of range pegged him as a third baseman before entering the professional ranks.
Regarded as an advanced hitter for his age, the organization handed him an aggressive assignment to Low-A for his first full professional season. After a painfully unproductive first month, the 19-year-old’s bat come alive and he finished the year with 158 hits in 132 games, which paced the Midwest League. Overall, the right-handed hitter batted .312/.367/.436 with 36 doubles, seven home runs, 76 RBI and 130/45 K/BB.
Even though he showcased a natural ability to stay inside of and barrel the ball with consistency, Castellanos’ high strikeout total was slightly concerning. At times, he unnecessarily expanded his strike zone, chasing pitches—especially breaking balls—out of the zone in favorable counts. His lack of power, however, was less worrisome, as his swing was more line-drive-oriented and he was expected to add strength.
Promoted to High-A Lakeland to open the 2012 season, Castellanos opened his second full season in a historically impressive manner, batting .405/.461/.553 with 23 extra-base hits and 42/22 K/BB in the first 55 games. The 20-year-old was, without a doubt, the top hitter in the minor leagues over the first half of the season. Not only did he show improved contact rates and plate discipline, but he started showcasing more frequent power, especially to the opposite field.
His defense, on the other hand, was shaky. While he showed the arm strength to handle the hot corner, his approach on groundballs and defense actions were inconsistent, though it was partially a product of his overall lack of experience at the position.
Promoted to Double-A around midseason, Castellanos’ bat was tested at the more advanced level, and his propensity for chasing breaking balls was exploited. Playing in 79 games for Erie, he batted .264/.296/.382 with 23 extra-base hits—tying his career-high with seven home runs—but also posted 76/14 K/BB in 322 at-bats.
Considering his tentative approach at third base and rigid defensive actions, the Tigers moved him to the outfield in conjunction with the Double-A promotion. The move also suggested a potentially accelerated arrival in the major leagues, especially with the team’s corner infield positions occupied by Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder, respectively.
At the plate, Castellanos hits from an upright stance with his legs spread beyond the width of his shoulders. His load and weight transfer is simple, exaggerated toe-tap, as he smoothly shifts his weight to his backside before firing his hands through the zone.
Castellanos also employs an inside-out approach, attacking the inner-half of the ball with plus raw bat speed and a direct barrel path. He’s exhibited an improved ability to turn on the ball, though most of his power is still to the right-centerfield gap—which is always nice to see in a young hitter.
However, said approach has also limited his power, though he did showcase more upon reaching Double-A. As he adds substantial strength to his projectable 6’4”, 210-pound frame, it’s conceivable that Castellanos will possess above-average power by the time he reaches the major leagues. And considering how long he keeps the bat head in the zone, there’s reason to believe he’ll also hit for average.
The right-handed hitter offered fans a glimpse of his offensive upside in the 2012 XM Futures Game when he was 3-for-4 with an impressive home run to dead-center and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The one glaring weakness in his game is his approach—more specifically, his propensity for chasing sliders on the outer half—which was repeatedly exploited over the second half of the season.
As expected, his actions and reads in outfield need work, and he’ll likely see time at both corner positions moving forward. He should definitely benefit from the additional reps in the Arizona Fall League.
Castellanos will likely open the 2013 campaign back at Double-A, where he should be more comfortable and make noticeable improvements in his age-21 season. And given the Tigers' willingness to aggressively promote their prospects ahead of schedule, it’s conceivable that he’ll contend for a Sept. call-up with a strong performance.