Castellanos eclipses 100-RBI mark in loss

Home-grown right fielder joins Tigers elite with feat vs. Twins

Castellanos eclipses 100-RBI mark in loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ian Kinsler was waiting at the top of the dugout steps for Nicholas Castellanos to return from his first-inning home run. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus hugged him in the dugout.

"Even [Tigers defensive coordinator] Matt Martin [was] running out of the video room and giving me a hug," Castellanos said.

It wasn't for the early lead off Twins starter Kyle Gibson, a lead Minnesota soon erased on its way to a 6-3 win. It was the 100-RBI mark that Castellanos crossed.

After Castellanos' three-run homer the previous night at Kansas City put him at 99 RBIs for the season, Dixon Machado said the team was trying to get him to 100. In what has been a miserable closing run for the team, it became almost a group effort.

"I always believed that I could do it," Castellanos said.

"I believed that, too," teammate Jose Iglesias piped in from the next locker over in the clubhouse.

It was historic in two senses.

Not since Hall of Famer Al Kaline in 1956 had a Tiger put up 25 homers, 10 triples and 100 RBIs in the same season. Castellanos' penchant for triples has been well-documented this season, and he remains the only American League player in double digits, and he has seven home runs over his past 24 games.

The second feat says more about the organization than the hitter. Castellanos became the first home-grown Tiger, drafted/signed and developed by the organization, to post a 100-RBI season for the club since Bobby Higginson did it in 2000. The Tigers have had plenty of run-producers between, but brought in from outside the system and usually acquired in their prime, from Magglio Ordonez to Miguel Cabrera to Victor Martinez to Prince Fielder. J.D. Martinez came up with the Astros before the Tigers signed him.

It's a reflection of the win-now mentality that guided the club for more than a decade, and the financial flexibility that allowed the pursuit of proven hitters. Those days are over. If the Tigers are to contend again, they need to develop and keep talent. Castellanos, a first-round pick in 2010 and a project with the big club the last four years, is an example.

"It was a group effort here to get me to 100 RBIs," Castellanos said. "I didn't do it by myself."

He's just the start. The Tigers need more young run producers, which is why so much of their trade returns have been position prospects. Jeimer Candelario has shown potential as a run producer. Christin Stewart, a supplemental first-round pick two years ago, has shown power and production, driving in 87 and 86 runs, respectively, the past two years in abbreviated Minor League seasons. Team officials believe Isaac Paredes, the shortstop prospect from the same trade as Candelario, could blossom into an offensive force in time.

And with Friday's loss, the Tigers are assured of a top-three pick in next year's MLB Draft. If they lose their final two games, they'll have the first overall pick, giving them another chance to acquire an impact prospect.

For now, they have Castellanos. And as the Tigers embark on a rebuild and Cabrera tries to rebound from injuries, Castellanos could well be the primary run producer in their lineup.

"I like that. I like responsibility," Castellanos said. "I'm not saying that I am the guy. Obviously, we have Miguel Cabrera on our team, and Ian Kinsler. But to come in and have that responsibility and be looked at as one of the main contributors on this team, I like that. In a way, it's almost like showing up back at my high school baseball field, batting third and having fun and just pulling for your friends."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for 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.