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Everyday contributor Castellanos named Tigers' top rookie

Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association honors young third baseman

DETROIT -- The Tigers used 18 rookies this season, but one player stood out above the rest.

On Wednesday, third baseman Nick Castellanos received the recognition many had expected. Members of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association honored him with the Tigers Rookie of the Year Award.

After back-to-back seasons with partial-year players earning the honor -- midseason trade acquisition Jose Iglesias won it last year after in-season callup Quintin Berry had it in 2012 -- Castellanos gave Detroit its first everyday rookie for a full season since Austin Jackson took over center field in '10. Castellanos had his expected ups and downs, both at the plate and in the field, but he ended up playing a big role in the Tigers' fourth consecutive division title.

Detroit selected Castellanos out of high school in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, but the team struggled to find a spot for him in the big leagues until Prince Fielder's trade to Texas last fall allowed Miguel Cabrera to move from third to first. That opened up the hot corner for Castellanos, who had moved from third to the outfield a year earlier.

Offensively, Castellanos held his own, batting .259 with 31 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .700 OPS. Only White Sox slugger Jose Abreu and Reds speedster Billy Hamilton had more base hits among Major League rookies, while only Abreu drove in more runs.

Castellanos had his expected rookie struggles with strikeouts, recording 140 of them in 533 at-bats. With just 36 walks, he posted a .306 on-base percentage that ranked 25th-lowest among Major League hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title.

Yet when Castellanos connected, the beauty in his swing became evident. He posted a 28.5 percent line-drive rate that led all AL hitters, trailing only Atlanta's Freddie Freeman in the Majors.

Defensively, Castellanos' minus-30 rating on Defensive Runs Saved ranked last among all Major League position players, while his minus-18.4 Ultimate Zone Rating ranked next to last, despite a year's worth of work with infield coach Omar Vizquel. The Tigers are looking for improvement with another offseason of training on footwork and other fundamentals.

The total package gave Detroit hope that it has a young talent who could become part of the heart of the order in the next few years, balancing out a roster that has tilted heavily towards veteran players in recent years. Castellanos was the only rookie who spent the entire season on the Tigers' 25-man roster.

Castellanos becomes the first third baseman to win the Tigers Rookie of the Year Award since Scott Livingstone in 1992. He'll be presented with his award before a Detroit home game next season.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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