Mensching: New position needed for Tigers’ Castellanos

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News

It’s time for Nick Castellanos’ time at third base to come to a merciful end.

Some years ago, Castellanos held the title of worst fielder in the league, per whatever advanced metric you preferred to look up if you wanted some hard numbers to back the eye test.

Everybody knew he would need to be better to stick at the hot corner, and the Tigers got him some additional coaching help before the 2015 season with defensive specialist Matt Martin as well as 11-time Gold Glove winning shortstop Omar Vizquel.

Castellanos didn’t need to be turned into the slickest fielder in the game, but he had to at least be nearer to an average-fielding third baseman.

In some ways it worked. Castellanos went from being 30 runs below average — per Baseball Information Solution’s Defensive Runs Saved — to nine runs below the following year.

That, unfortunately for the Tigers, was about the only progress Castellanos made, and this year he appears to have taken a step back. Almost certainly, he will finish worse than the -11 DRS he is currently at.

Castellanos already rates as the worst starting third baseman in the game, and at this point it’s safe to say that’s not going to change.

Castellanos’ days in Detroit, at 3B, could be numbered

With an eye to the future, it’s time for the team to try something new.

The Tigers do have their future third baseman on the roster already — at least they hope. Jeimer Candelario, the chief return in the trade of Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, received a temporary promotion to Detroit on Sunday when shortstop Jose Iglesias was placed on the bereavement list.

They should take a close look at him right away. He likely will prove to be a defensive upgrade over Castellanos, with the potential to be a solid run-producer with some power, as well.

Castellanos potentially has some value with his bat if he’s able to build on what he did in 2016: a batting average of .285 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. He was an above-average hitter per whatever your favorite advanced stat may be, including a .350 wOBA (weighted on-base average, a stat that takes into account all of a player’s contributions at the plate).

This year, however, like his glove, his bat has been lacking. Castellanos has suffered from some bad luck but has also lost a bit of the power he had before, too.

Castellanos is still just 25 years old. It’s too early to give up on him entirely. So if he’s going to have a future, it’s likely to be across the diamond at first base — if he hits well enough — or in right field.

First base is currently occupied by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, who might be better suited for DH but won’t be making the move right away. Right field is patrolled by Jim Adduci. No offense to Adduci intended, but he’s more of a placeholder than anything.

Like any positional change, there would be an adjustment for Castellanos. But right field is a step down the difficulty ladder on the defensive spectrum, and he has always been known for having a better arm than glove. Couple that with his prior experience in the outfield, and he should have much better chance of being a capable fielder there than at third.

It’s clear that what the Tigers have tried isn’t working, so any alternative to Castellanos at third should be a welcome one as they retool for the future.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.