Nick Castellanos turned 19 earlier this month and his official experience as a pro amounts to seven games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League at the end of last summer. Still, the third base prospect spent much of Spring Training in the Grapefruit League with the big league Tigers.
A supplemental first-round Draft pick last June, Castellanos was one of the most highly touted high school players in the country. In addition to starring for Archbishop McCarthy in Davie, Fla., he was the Silver Spikes Player of the Game in the Under Armour All-American Showcase at Wrigley Field and won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship Games as a member of USA Baseball's 18U team.
Castellanos would have attended the University of Miami had he and the Tigers not agreed to a contract that came with a $3.45 million bonus. The deal gave him the chance to play in the same organization as Miguel Cabrera, whom Castellanos rooted for as a youngster when the slugger was with the Florida Marlins.
He recently talked about getting to play with a childhood hero, being a teenager in Major League camp and his expectations for the upcoming season.
MiLB.com: You only had time to slip into seven pro games last year, all in the GCL. It must be pretty incredible to be playing in the Grapefruit League. Have you been able to take a moment to reflect on that or have you been too concentrated on business?
Castellanos: You know, every day you have to come and play baseball, so I try and stay focused on that. I don't really think about how I got here, [because] I really don't have time to look back and appreciate it yet.
MiLB.com: What have you been working on most in camp?
Castellanos: Probably my defense. That's something I've been working on a lot. I've been putting in a lot of early work on that, working with my coaches on that a lot.
MiLB.com: When did you start playing third base or having coaches identify you at a third baseman? What other positions did you play?
Castellanos: I played short most of my career, all throughout Little League and high school. Third base is still a little bit new to me, so I'm still learning it a little bit. [The biggest difference is] pretty much the reaction time, the way they're teaching me to be set up before the pitch. It's working on slow rollers, working on fielding bunts.
At shortstop, you have more time to play the ball where you want to play it. But at third base, you just have to react. There's no time to do anything but catch the ball.
MiLB.com: What was Draft day like for you?
Castellanos: Draft day was a great experience. I had my family there, and I have some of my family in Detroit. I knew [the Tigers] were interested, but not more than some other teams.
MiLB.com: Was it especially exciting to be picked by a team with such a rich baseball history? And by the team that has Miguel Cabrera?
Castellanos: Oh, yeah, of course. It's been really cool. I've looked up to him when I was a little kid, and now I'm here playing on the same team as him. Not very many kids get to have that experience.
MiLB.com: You ended up with a nice signing bonus. Was it weird to suddenly have that money -- and to have everybody know about it?
Castellanos: You know, yes and no. I really didn't think about it like that. My friends and family didn't treat me any different, so, in a way, no. Everybody treats me the same.
But I don't need to ask my dad for money when I want to go out for friends, so that's different.
MiLB.com: The Miami area generates a lot of strong prospects. Do you remember playing against Orioles first-round pick Manny Machado at any point?
Castellanos: I played with him on the USA team. We both knew [we'd be in the same Draft class]. We really didn't talk about it much, but we both knew we were the better ballplayers in the area. We knew that. He did his thing and I did my thing, and that's why we are who we are.
MiLB.com: In your limited time in the GCL, you put up good numbers. Were you at all nervous, coming into that first pro experience?
Castellanos: My first at-bat, I was a little bit nervous, but I just remembered I was there for a reason. After that, baseball was baseball, and I did well.
MiLB.com: You've played in Wrigley Field and in Venezuela and now with the Major League club in Spring Training. It's a weird question for somebody at the beginning of his career, but what's been the highlight so far?
Castellanos: Probably Wrigley Field. [That day was] really, really good.
MiLB.com: It's been reported that you'll likely start 2011 with [Class A] West Michigan, a couple hours from Comerica Park. What are your expectations or goals for the season?
Castellanos: Just to play smart, play hard and do well. I'm guessing [my family members who live in the area] will come and see me play a couple times.