NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Okay, so the Detroit Tigers are not exactly playing the way they should be. They have not put too many games together where they are excelling at every facet of the game more than their opponent. Some days, the starters will pitch a quality start and give the team a chance to win, but the hitting doesn’t come through. Other days, they light up the scoreboard, but the pitchers, whether it is the starters or relievers, are unable to do their part.
A lot has been made about the play of some specific players lately. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is hitting .261 now on the season. The 4-time All-Star and career .272 hitter cannot wait for the calendar to flip to July, as he only mustered a .239 batting average in the month of June. Center fielder Anthony Gose is just 11-for-66 (.167 BA) in June after hitting a cool and very surprising .314 each of the first two months of the season. Lately though, many Tigers fans have had the most speculation about Tigers third baseman, Nick Castellanos.
Castellanos, in only his second season in the majors, is going through a sophomore slump. In 72 games this season, the 23-year old has a disappointing .225/.274/.344 slash line, with four home runs and 28 runs batted in. His home run and RBI totals are acceptable, but the average and on-base percentages certainly could be better. During his rookie campaign in 2014, Castellanos produced a slash line of .259/.306/.394, with 11 homers and 66 RBI’s. Those numbers were good to get him tied for 8th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. The award went to Chicago White Sox Cuban sensation, first baseman Jose Abreu.
Abreu in his second season with the White Sox, according to some people, is going through a sophomore slump. His slash line through 70 games this season is .291/.343/.495, compared to his .317/.383/.581 rookie numbers. Life must be brutal if you’re going through a slump and still hitting .290+ on the season.
Back to Castellanos though. It has been well-documented that Nick is struggling in the hitting department. His plate discipline has declined, as he is having a hard time seeing pitches as pitchers deliver to the plate. His glove at third base has been getting a lot of flack to say the least as well. The numbers would tell otherwise, as he has shown he’s much improved on defense compared to his rookie season.
Last year, Castellanos ranked near the bottom among all qualified major league third basemen with a .947 fielding percentage. The leader in that category was Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, with a .981 FPCT. This season however, Nick has a .974 FPCT, which is good for 4th in Major League Baseball and just .003 points behind league leader and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. You got to have quick feet, good range, and strong instincts to play the hot corner. If there is one thing Castellanos is not having a sophomore slump in, it is his fielding.
Here is what I have to say about Nick Castellanos going through his sophomore slump, nation. I’m going to take a page out of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ playbook for this one.
It’s not Castellanos’ fault that he made his major league debut after young and super talented players like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado took the game by storm two years before him. These three players joined their respective big league clubs and were expected to be “the guy”. Kudos to them, they are doing a great job. What they are doing though that is unfair for other young players who follow suit, like Nick Castellanos, is setting an unbelievably higher standard for ALL rookies who make their debuts. The fact of the matter is, these three are rare occurrences in baseball, supreme talents that seemingly will not show any signs of slumping or regression.
Mike Trout is arguably the best 5-tool player in baseball. The 2014 MVP, two-time MVP runner-up in 2012 and 2013 and 2012 Rookie of the Year has proven he can do pretty much everything: hit for power, hit for average, fast runner, great defender, high baseball IQ. As good as he’s been, one thing he also does is strikes out a lot. In his first three full seasons, Trout struck out over 130 times, including an AL-leading 184 times last season.
Trout and Castellanos are both 23 years of age. Of course they’re going to swing and miss a lot. Very few young players are not free-swingers at the plate. Players with good, long, and successful careers gain a better meaning of plate discipline as they play more. Don’t knock Castellanos down because he is going through a sophomore slump. Rather, we should be praising those who don’t suffer from it, like Mike Trout, because the sophomore slump is so common.
Nick Castellanos is going to have a very long and successful career as a big league ball player. Let’s also keep in mind that he’s penciled in a lineup card everyday that features Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez ahead of him (assuming that J.D. has sustaining power of course). So there should be even less pressure on Nick to perform day in and day out. The other luxury of having a 23-year old start everyday is if the team is not pleased with his production, they can send him down to the minors to re-gain not only his swing, but also his confidence. When any professional athlete goes through slumps as deep as the one Nick Castellanos is going through, it becomes more of a mental problem, as opposed to an issue with his skill set.
If there is someone that Castellanos should consider looking at for motivation, it should be Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. The man they call “Moose” in Kansas City is one of many of the current Royals who were highly thought of before they debuted. Moustakas made the big leagues in 2011, playing 89 games and hitting .263 with 5 home runs and 30 runs batted in. His average continued to decline each of the next three seasons (.242 in 2012; .233 in 2013; .212 in 2014) while playing nearly a full 162-game schedule. This season however, Moustakas through 68 games is having an All-Star type of season and a career year, hitting .322 with seven homers and 31 RBI’s. Up until yesterday, he was the leading vote-getter at the third base position in the American League, but has since been taken over by Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson.
So again nation, Tigers fans, baseball fans…..just relax about Nick Castellanos. Believe me, I know just as much as anyone how frustrating it is to see a player not producing as much as they should be. There is absolutely no reason to panic about Nick though. The bat will come around, the glove will continue to improve, and in four to five years, you may seen Nick hitting somewhere between 3rd and 5th in the lineup for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.