By Ashley Scoby

Third baseman Nick Castellanos was a bit of an enigma for Tigers fans last season. One minute he was slugging a home run out of the park, the next he was making a wild throw from third and recording an error. He would go through a slump, then pop out of it seamlessly.

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But both Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and general manager/vice president of baseball operations Al Avila believe the 23-year-old is headed down the right path.

And although there were some discussions last season about sending Castellanos back down to the minor league level, according to Ausmus, his growth and his potential have been recognized by the higher-ups within the organization.

“I would probably say that right now, sitting here today, he’s probably a below-average defender, with the ability or the chance of becoming at least an average defender,” Avila said. “And obviously Nick Castellanos – his bat is going to do the talking for him.”

It did. In 2015, Castellanos batted .255 in 595 plate appearances, with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and 152 strikeouts. He had the fourth-most triples on the team, with six, and recorded the fourth-most hits (140). No one had more doubles than Castellanos (33) last season except Ian Kinsler, with 35.

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His defense still needs work, but the Tigers know Castellanos’ bat – and his ceiling – makes him worth keeping around.

“At this point I would say Nick is still in the growth stage with good potential, as is a guy like Anthony Gose – a real young guy,” Avila said. “He’s still really developing, and he has not, in our opinion, really reached his full potential yet. At his age, it’s a rarity you see a guy at his full potential. One of the rarities would be a guy like Miguel Cabrera, when he comes up and all of a sudden he’s a superstar. That’s not the norm.”

Castellanos’ offense is one of the biggest reasons why other teams have inquired about the third baseman as a trade piece, according to Avila. But whether it’s pitching or infielders, Avila has stood beside his desire to keep the Tigers’ young talent in Detroit.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, even in the batter’s box. Ausmus pointed to Castellanos’ tendency to chase pitches down and out of the zone – a problem he says the 23-year-old got better at as the year went on.

But sometimes the most important thing for a baseball player is his possession of an upward trajectory, and the Tigers believe Castellanos has it.

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“In this fast food sports media market, everyone thinks a young guy is gonna be Mike Trout or Carlos Correa, that’s not how it works,” Ausmus said. “Those guys are the extreme rarity. Most guys come up. They take time to develop. It takes time for them to grow and figure out exactly what type of player they are. And Nick is one of those guys who’s doing it, but he’s moving in the right direction.”