Detroit Tigers: Are Big Things in Store for Nick Castellanos in 2017?

Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos hit 18 home runs in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign. Could even bigger things be in store for him in 2017?

Last season, in his full third year in the major leagues, Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos showed many signs that he was ready to break out. During his first two full seasons in the majors, Castellanos produced decent, but not spectacular numbers at the plate.

When also factoring in his below average defense, Castellanos was also a below replacement level player for those two years, according to fWAR.

In 2016, Castellanos was a much improved player. Through 110 games, the third baseman hit a solid .285/.331/.496 (122 OPS+) with 18 home runs and 58 RBI. It was the first time he had achieved an OPS+ greater than the league average of 100. He posted marks of 96 and 97 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. His .827 OPS was the fourth-best mark among Tigers who had accumulated 400 or more plate appearances last season.

However, Castellanos was robbed of part of his season after he was hit with a pitch and suffered a broken hand in August. The injury nearly kept Castellanos out for nearly the rest of the season, but he was able to return for a handful of games at the end of the year.

Had he not been injured, he should have easily been able to eclipse the 20-homer mark for the first time. Still, his 1.9 fWAR was the best mark of his still-young career, as was his 1.6 bWAR.

Though still not exactly a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, the defensive part of Castellanos’s game seemed to improve as well. His -9.7 UZR/150 was an improvement over his marks of -11.2 in 2015 and -19.1 in 2014.

In the early days of spring training 2017, Castellanos has already become a hot topic. On Monday, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported that Castellanos was the talk of camp after putting on an impressive display of power during batting practice. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News notes that while manager Brad Ausmus and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon warn that he shouldn’t get too caught up in trying to achieve 30 home runs and 100 RBI, the organization feels that he is capable of accomplishing such feats.

A first-round draft pick of the Tigers out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida back in 2010, Castellanos will turn only 25 years old in March. He won’t reach free agency until 2020, so he still has plenty of time to do exciting things in a Tigers uniform. If he can hit the way he did last year and stay healthy for a full 162-game season in 2017, it should certainly be fun to see what his numbers look like in October.

Detroit has several formidable offensive pieces in its lineup, including Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and, of course, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. With Castellanos, the Tigers should have six players in their everyday lineup who are capable of achieving 20-plus home runs and 80-plus RBI.

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