Castellanos keeps open mind after 3B trades

Slugger would be OK with position change if asked by Tigers, who added top prospects at third

Castellanos keeps open mind after 3B trades

NEW YORK -- Nicholas Castellanos has not talked with the Tigers about his future at third base. He realizes why inquiring minds would be wondering if he had.

The two most advanced prospects the Tigers received in their two major July trades are primary third basemen. Jeimer Candelario, the new Toledo Mud Hens third baseman, became Detroit's highest-ranked position prospect by MLBPipeline's rankings when he came over from the Cubs in Monday's trade of Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. Dawel Lugo, part of the return package for J.D. Martinez, is primarily a third baseman at Double-A Erie.

"Our main focus was to get the best talent available," general manager Al Avila said. "If that happened to be two third basemen, as opposed to a third baseman and a shortstop, you still go for the best talent you can acquire. It's no different than you do in the Draft.

"This has nothing to do with Nick or anybody on the Major League club. This has to do with refilling our organization at the Minor League level."

Still, it doesn't take a leap of logic to wonder about Castellanos' standing at the hot corner. But for his part, Castellanos isn't worrying.

"I'll do whatever they need," he said. "They know that I'm not somebody that makes it about myself and my position, or, 'Am I this?' or 'Am I that?' At the end of the day, whatever makes the team better and the Tigers win, I'm going to do with a smile, you know? I just want to play. That's it. Wherever it is positionally."

Castellanos' throw gets Cain

Castellanos took a roundabout path to third base in Detroit. A shortstop in high school, Castellanos spent the first year and a half of his pro career at third base before shifting to right field midway through the 2012 season. He moved to left field at Toledo in 2013, and spent most of the summer eschewing extra batting practice for daily defensive work to get used to the position, before the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade opened up third base for him in Detroit in 2014 (Miguel Cabrera moved from third to first).

"One thing that I said is that they're never going to say I didn't work hard, no matter what happens," Castellanos said. "That's why wherever I am -- whether it's at third, first, outfield -- I'm going to work just as hard wherever I'm at."

Castellanos feels more comfortable in right field than left, he said, because he tracks fly balls better from that angle.

His comfort level at third base continues to improve. Castellanos' defensive results are mixed, depending on the stats being used to measure. He has already matched his career-high error total with 15, same as his rookie season, with two months to go. But nearly half of those are throwing errors. His Range Factor, a substat of Ultimate Zone Rating used by Fangraphs, is by far the best of his career at minus-4.1. His fielding errors have come in spurts, including a three-error (all fielding) game April 28. But Castellanos hasn't committed a fielding error since May 26.

"I'm probably getting to more balls and I'm trying to make more difficult plays, which is leading to some [throwing errors]," Castellanos said. "But it is what it is. Errors are what you make of them."

His improvement in range is likely a reflection of better agility. He reported to Spring Training leaner and has adopted an in-season workout routine aimed at flexibility.

"He's leaned up and he actually seems to be running better since he got here," manager Brad Ausmus said.

That said, the Tigers have to decide what his ceiling is as a third baseman compared to Candelario and Lugo. That won't happen until the offseason.

"Nick is at third base," Avila said. "He's our third baseman, and we will continue to evaluate our players on the field with players that we acquired, players in our Minor League system for the remainder of the Minor League season, and then we'll go into the offseason and see what we're going to do as we move forward."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.