After months of hearing about how outfielder Nick Castellanos had been tearing up everything from Single-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo, the 21-year-old prospect finally got the call.
And as he stepped to the plate, pinch hitting for Don Kelly, in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ loss to Cleveland on Sunday, we were all expecting — or at least hoping for — a Roy Hobbs-esque first at-bat. One that would maybe result in the cover of the ball being ripped off from the force of his bat.
Instead, he flied out to right field. It wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic as Malamud’s Roy Hobbs in “The Natural,” but it was realistic. His next at-bat was even more realistic — a groundout to the shortstop in the ninth inning.
Some people think that Castellanos is still too young for “the show.” After his productivity in Toledo this past summer, though, other people had been calling for his services since July. Either way, now that the expanded rosters are in play it looks like he’s here for the long haul.
He isn’t going to come in and hit 1.000 with only home runs and extra-base hits; he’s human — and barely even old enough to drink at that. I’m sure Leyland will bring him along slowly for a couple of reasons: the Tigers don’t need a huge offensive boost right now, especially with a significant lead on Cleveland, and Dirks has been pretty hot as of late.
Castellanos will be platooning in left field for now, and that’s just where he should be. Some day he might be the player that everyone thinks he’ll be. But for now, he’s a solid bat with above-average power, and maybe a little week defensively as he was previously a third basemen before joining the Tigers’ farm system.
But he’s a work in progress — a work that we’ll all probably appreciate someday. That is assuming he doesn’t become the next pawn in the Tigers’ spend-thrifty mentality.