The Detroit Tigers now have the perfect opportunity to move Nick Castellanos from right-field to first base, so what seems to be the hold-up?
Last season when Miguel Cabrera was sidelined for all but 38 games the Detroit Tigers had a wonderful opportunity to get Nicholas Castellanos reps at first base. The team had Victor Martinez as the every day designated hitter while they rotated Niko Goodrum, John Hicks amongst others at first.
Nicholas Castellanos was moved from his natural third base position because of a bad string of often occurring errors in the field. He was going through some personal issues involving a parents health scare etc. Sometimes we forget professional players are human too. Miguel Cabrera, along with many other Venezuelan players have been monitoring the issues back home, and at times it can be a distraction. In my mind, the safety of a family member needs to take top priority.
Miguel Cabrera has often mentioned his desire to continue to play the field. He says it keeps him focused on the game; it keeps his mind into the game rather than pacing back and forth in the dugout taking an at-bat every two to three innings.
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Cabrera is often found at first goofing around with the opponents on base, or the teams’ first base coach. He always has that big grin on his face; sometimes he’s physically holding the runner’s arm so he can’t take a substantial lead, sometimes he’s trying to listen to the base coach tell the runner something or flipping the bill of someone’s cap up off their head will his glove. Some of these antics will rub fans the wrong way, but remember it’s a long grueling MLB season with 162 regular season games. It’s ok to have some fun as long as you are ready to make a play once the action resumes.
That being said, there is no reason why the Detroit Tigers haven’t been working Nicholas Castellanos out at first base. I think he’d be a solid defender after having plenty of MLB experience at the hot corner. Keep in mind, though, playing first in the big leagues is not like playing it on your softball team. That usually is where you put the least athletic guy on your team because he won’t be trying to chase down a ball in the gap, or expected to have the range needed to play as a middle infielder, or the arm strength of a third baseman. It’s still the case in the big leagues’ but you still need some defensive skills. It’s not simple to dig a big league throw out of the dirt to secure an out. Left-handed hitters are also still hitting rockets at you too.
The path to first for Cabrera and Castellanos will be reasonably similar. Nick started at third, moved to the outfield, and hopefully ends up at first. Miguel started as an outfielder, advanced to third, then to first, then as a Tiger back to third to accommodate Prince Fielder, and back to first again.
Nick is much more athletic than Cabrera; I also consider him to be a much better defender. It’s a move that needs to take place soon; he’s been better in right-field of late but is still considered a below average fielder. Brandon Dixon is manning first for the most part at the moment, he can play all over the place, but he’d be a better option in right anyhow, so why not just swap them now? The Tigers might think that Castellanos is more valuable on the trade market as an outfielder rather than a player learning another new position. That is the only thing that would make sense to me. So if he’s still on the team come August first, and that’s when the Detroit Tigers make a move, we will understand the timing.
I think the Detroit Tigers were reluctant to explore Nick playing first last year because the team didn’t want to hurt Miguel’s feelings. He often continued to say he didn’t want to be the every day DH; he wanted to play the field. Instead of ruffling any feathers, the organization decided to leave things alone.
With Cabrera forced into the DH role due to a bum knee that he will have to deal with for the remainder of his career, it opens up first, and now the team has an excuse to finally move Nick there. By forcing Miguel to become the every day DH, it might actually keep the big man healthy too, that is important for when the team finally turns things around. He might remain at least a threat with the bat.