You wouldn’t guess it at first, but despite being only 26 years old, Nicholas Castellanos is one of the longest tenured members on the Detroit Tigers.
In a season that for many has come as a surprise for Tigers fans, Castellanos has served as a catalyst and a leader in the clubhouse He’s posting career best numbers hitting .336 while raking in 32 RBIs and somehow keeping the Tigers in the (very early) playoff race.
To better understand Castellanos, you have to see the path he took to get to where he is today. The Tigers drafted the 18 year-old with the 44th pick in the 2010 draft and at the time gave him the largest signing bonus in draft history, an early indication on their belief in his abilities.
With his domination in the minor league level, many expected the young third baseman to be traded by the Tigers in 2012 who were all in and contending for a World Series Title.
The Tigers refused to trade him though as they saw his potential. While he made his first Major League appearance in 2013, it wasn’t until 2014 where he got his chance to start after the Tigers traded Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera was able to transition to the first base.
The timing of his arrival coincided with the hiring of Brad Ausmus and a Tigers team that was trying to get back to the World Series again.
The results in the postseason were disappointing however and the franchise began to see the writing on the wall with impending star free agents David Price and Yoenis Cespedes traded for prospects as they started to build for the future.
As the franchise changed its direction the next couple seasons, Castellanos provided quality hitting for the Tigers while being in the shadow of a carousel of star hitters like Cabrera, Upton, and JD Martinez. Castellanos improved each season but despite being young, he fell under a microscope from a Tigers fanbase who had been spoiled by elite hitting the last couple years
One issue Castellanos struggled with was on the defensive side of the ball at third base. A solution came last season when the Tigers traded their closer Justin Wilson to the Chicago Cubs for a top prospect, Jemir Candelario.
He quickly dominated the minors and helped the Tigers by allowing Castellanos to move to the outfield when Candelario was called up and started at third base.
Fast forward to 2018 and Castellanos is the Tigers best hitter and is thriving under new manager Ron Gardenhire. They’re a rebuilding team after posting the worst record in the MLB last season, but thus far have proved to be a competitive team and are currently second place in the AL Central.
Despite his success, Castellanos future with the Tigers isn’t clear. While he still has two years of team control left, the Tigers have yet to offer him an extension. The organization has made it clear with its actions that they are rebuilding and it wouldn’t be surprising if Castellanos is moved if the right amount of prospects are offered.
Castellanos has made his desire known to stay with the organization that drafted him and for fanbase that has seen some of their favorite players traded in the last few seasons and derailed by injuries, it would be a breath of fresh air to see the organization commit to someone who has the potential to be their star player for a long time.