Castellanos works on transition to outfield in AFL

Castellanos works on transition to outfield in AFL

PHOENIX -- Third base is where Nick Castellanos loves to play. It's also the position the Tigers' top ranked prospect likely won't spend much time, considering Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera kind of likes it himself.

Castellanos, who ranks as MLB.com's No. 11 prospect playing in the Arizona Fall League, is being given an alternate route to the Major Leagues, adjusting well as a left fielder, and he was the designated hitter in last week's Rising Stars Game as a member of the East Division squad (Mesa Solar Sox).

The move to the outfield has been a confidence booster for Castellanos, knowing the Tigers are putting him in position to succeed and probably accelerate his progress to the Major Leagues.

"Absolutely," he said. "I love playing third base, that's where I'm used to playing, but the reality is that Miguel Cabrera's not going anywhere, so wherever I can find a spot, as long as I'm in the lineup."

Moves to the outfield are not rare, and Castellanos, who was a Compensation A (44th overall) selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, expected a smooth transition. He adapted well, but it took work.

"At first, I didn't think it was going to be [difficult], but then I realized all the things we're responsible for, and all the things the outfielders, and the things that they make look so easy, and they're not," he said. "So it's difficult, but I'm handling it well, and I feel confident."

Rodney Linares, who is the manager of the Solar Sox, said Castellanos has a knack for hitting, aided by an inside-out swing with power.

"He's always hit, he's gonna hit," Linares said. "I believe that later on, as he starts learning to pull the ball, he's going to start tapping into his power."

Castellanos, selected as the Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida in 2010, has had a few problems at the plate with the Solar Sox, hitting only .239 through the season's first four weeks.

With a lot of at-bats during the summer and learning the outfield in the Fall League, it is not surprising that a little fatigue can set in. Linares believes that has taken a toll on Castellanos' bat speed but sees that as only a minor setback.

"The sky's the limit with the kid," he said. "A kid who can do the things he does, staying inside out on the ball just means he's not going to strike out very much."

Castellanos played 79 games for Double-A Erie of the Eastern League this year, moving up from high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League. His average dropped from .405 to .264 after the switch, but he tied a career high with seven home runs and 25 RBIs and learned a lot that he will try to put to good use at his next stop.

He believes a big part of doing well at higher levels revolves around patience.

"It's recognizing your pitch to hit and also realizing how you're going to get pitched to, dictated by the situation that's at hand," he said. "Just because you're in a fastball count doesn't mean you're going to get a fastball.

"Pitchers are just a lot more polished, and they locate all their pitches a lot better. You need to be smart to succeed at that level."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Castellanos has found the league a rewarding experience.

"It's a lot of fun, but it's also very challenging playing with guys of this caliber day in and day out," he said. "It's an honor to be chosen to represent my organization."

Tigers hitters in the Fall League

James McCann was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award at Arkansas. A second-round Draft choice (76th overall) in 2011, McCann played about half the 2012 season in Double-A, hitting only .200 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 64 games. In the Fall League, he was hitting .233 after Monday's games.

Aaron Westlake was a third-round (106th overall) selection in 2011. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound first baseman spent the 2012 season in Class A, showing a much more complete offensive side than when he broke into the organization. He hit .249 in 123 games with nine home runs, drove in 69 runs and stole four bases. He had three home runs and seven RBIs in the Fall League entering week five.

Tigers pitchers in the Fall League

Tyler Clark, a right-handed reliever, has been in 78 games since his selection in the 24th round (733rd overall) in 2010. This past season, he was outstanding in Class A Lakeland of the Florida State league, fashioning an ERA of 0.63 while striking out 59 in 42 2/3 innings and posting a 6-1 record. In seven games with Double-A Erie, he ran into some problems. His ERA climbed to 7.36 and opponents hit .276 against him. In the Fall League, he allowed eight earned runs in his first 4 2/3 innings.

Matt Hoffman, a lefty, has spent five seasons in the Minor Leagues, mainly as a reliever. At Triple-A Toledo this season, he appeared in 43 games with an ERA of 3.69. He was a 26th-round pick (811th overall) in 2007. In his first nine Fall League appearances, covering 8 2/3 innings, he had an ERA of 5.19 with nine strikeouts.

Michael Morrison pitched at Double-A Erie in 2012, making 40 relief appearances. The right-hander, a 29th-round selection (870th overall) in 2009, had four saves, an ERA of 3.14 and posted a 4-3 record. He struck out 72 batters in 63 innings. He has acquitted himself well in the Fall League with a 2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings of work through the season's first four weeks.

Luke Putkonen is a 6-foot-6 right-hander who posted a 4.92 ERA with a 3-3 record at Triple-A Toledo. Two of his 24 appearances were as a starter. Two years before he was selected in the 2007 Draft in the third round (121st) overall, he underwent Tommy John surgery. He made his Major League debut against the Yankees in 2012.

Jim Gintonio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.