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Pressure Heaviest on Nick Castellanos to Deliver for Detroit Tigers at Third Base

February 20th, 2014 at 1:11 PM
By Jason Maxfield DeMara

Usually, when a rookie enters into baseball, a team will have a backup plan in place in case the rookie should struggle to adjust at the big time level. The Detroit Tigers don't have that luxury this season with their prized rookie Nick Castellanos, making the pressure on the young man enormous.

'IMG_0014 Nick Castellanos' photo (c) 2011, Roger DeWitt - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Castellanos has been long considered the Tigers' best prospect in-system, counted on to be a five-tool defender, plus hitter and all around impactful talent for years. There is no easy transition, however, as Castellanos takes over at third base with Miguel Cabrera moving to first base. In a lineup needing instant pop and production, he better hit in a hurry.

Detroit didn't get a veteran infielder as insurance, but did add Steve Lombardozzi, who is a jack of all trades capable of filling in at third base periodically. Lombardozzi, though, is the only safety net the team has in the infield should Castellanos struggle, and isn't capable of much offense himself. Considering the bumpy road that rookies face, entering the season like that is dangerous.

This year, given the team is still contending for a World Series, the weight of Detroit's spring pressure is square on Castellanos. Though third base is his natural position, can he hit big league pitching consistently enough? Can he handle the full defensive load at the position? There's nowhere for Castellanos to hide if the answer to those questions is anything but a resounding "maybe" or "yes."

Right or wrong, the Tigers are putting their complete faith in Castellanos being ready and able to shoulder the massive load the hot corner always presents. Hopefully for the team's sake, the pressure doesn't faze Castellanos personally, because the expectations can often get enormous and sweltering for a young player, especially as struggles mount, which always happen during a long year.

If Castellanos doesn't adapt as fast as expected, Dave Dombrowski might be forced to make a mid-season move, especially considering concerns about offensive pop in the wake of dealing away Prince Fielder during the offseason.

Perhaps Castellanos isn't a typical rookie, often prone to becoming overwhelmed by hype, surroundings and pressure. The Tigers should hope so, being they're counting on him to deliver in many ways in 2014.

Max DeMara is the editor at @detroitlions101 and a contributor for @Pistons_101 and @tigers_101. Follow each to connect with him there on Twitter.

Tags: Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, MLB, Nick Castellanos, Steve Lombardozzi

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