As the top hitting prospect in the Detroit system, Nick Castellanos
will eventually have to get used to hitting in cold weather. For now, though, the Lakeland third baseman is just appreciating the comfortable spring temperatures of his native Florida.
Castellanos, ranked No. 50 among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, got off to a start as frigid as the temperatures in the Class A Midwest League a year ago in his first full Minor League season.
"It's hard on everyone when it is so cold," he said.
But playing under more favorable and familiar conditions this April, the right-handed hitter got off to a hot start reflective of the much warmer temperatures in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
Castellanos went 16-for-39 during a season-opening 10-game hitting streak that included five multi-hit contests. He had three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs during the streak and is batting .391 even after his first hitless game on Monday.
The start by the supplemental first-round pick in the 2010 Draft is in complete contrast to a year ago, when he hit just .179 and had only two extra-base hits in April for West Michigan.
"I'm not using the weather as an excuse," Castellanos said. "It's an adjustment to go from high school to Minor League Baseball. I'm a lot more comfortable now."
Actually, it didn't take 2010's No. 44 overall Draft pick that long to get comfortable last season with West Michigan. As the weather warmed, he heated up as well.
Castellanos put together a 10-game hitting streak in late May and then batted .375 with 20 RBIs in 24 games during a torrid June. He finished with a .312 average, 36 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 72 RBIs, batting .397 with runners in scoring position.
The 6-foot-4 Castellanos, who turned 20 on March 4, figures that more homers will come as he fills out, and he's more concerned with improving his walk-to-strikeout ratio. He drew 45 walks last season, but struck out 130 times.
The Tigers lost their first-round pick in the 2010 Draft for signing closer Jose Valverde as a free agent but still got to pick one of the top players on their board when the Miami-area native was still available. The hard part was signing Castellanos, who was headed to the University of Miami.
Going right down to the Aug. 16 deadline, the Tigers finally got a deal done. The bonus agreement was for $3.45 million -- a record for a supplemental first-round pick.
Castellanos, the Tigers' No. 2 prospect behind pitcher Jacob Turner, earned an invitation to Spring Training this year and got into three Grapefruit League games.
"It was an awesome experience," he said about being around Major Leaguers.
Castellanos got a hit, although he doesn't remember who it was against.
"All I know is it was a tall pitcher for the Blue Jays," he said.
The Tigers' signing of first baseman Prince Fielder and the resulting move of Miguel Cabrera to third base could impact Castellanos' arrival time in the Majors. It's not something he is concerned about right now, though.
"I don't think about that at all," Castellanos said. "I'm just working hard and trying to get better every day. You can't worry about something that might be years away. I'm concentrating on what is happening now."
Yelich gets late start: Christian Yelich, ranked No. 35 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects and No. 1 with the Marlins, missed Jupiter's first nine games after being hit on the elbow by a bat during Spring Training. But the center fielder made up for his late start by getting two hits in each of his first two games with the Hammerheads.
Szczur busts out of slump: Daytona center fielder Matt Szczur had a four-hit game on Monday against Dunedin after starting the season 5-for-37. The former Villanova football standout is ranked as the Cubs' No. 4 prospect and received $1.4 million before the NFL Draft last year to abandon football.
Taillon making strides: Bradenton right-hander Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, worked five innings in his second start, limiting Fort Myers to three hits and a run while striking out six without a walk in the no-decision. He is No. 8 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects and is the Pirates' top prospect, just ahead of fellow Bradenton hurler Gerrit Cole.