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Prospect Nick Castellanos Is the Detroit Tigers' Best Trade Chip

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, it will come as no surprise when the Detroit Tigers are buyers on or before July 31. Holding a slight three-game lead in the American League Central as of June 21, the Tigers' front office will be in the market for a piece or two to help the team down the stretch.

Teams looking to make a move are not just going to give the Tigers talent without getting something in return. So whom exactly are the Tigers looking to move for that final piece of the puzzle? Rick Porcello is a talented young pitcher and the Tigers have plenty of depth in the rotation to spare him. Outfielder Avisail Garcia has shown enough promise that any rebuilding team would be willing to take him.

However, another outfielder who has never played a game in the major leagues is the Tigers' best trading chip: Nick Castellanos.

Some scouts say the 21-year-old blue-chipper is the best hitter in the minor leagues not named Oscar Taveras. Heading into the 2013 season, Castellanos was named the 21st-best prospect in baseball and has torn the cover off the ball in Triple-A Toledo this season.

Based on his bat alone, the Tigers nearly brought him to Detroit for opening day this season but decided against it. After getting off to a slow start in April, Castellanos has been on fire since, fueling talk of a call up to the major leagues.

In 76 games this year for the Mud Hens, Castellanos is hitting just below .300 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs. He's slugged 22 doubles and has an on-base percentage of .373, while scoring 52 runs. Not bad for a kid who was playing Single-A ball two years ago.

The main reason he hasn't been given a shot with the Tigers are concerns about his defense. Formerly a third baseman, Castellanos has spent the last year or so learning how to play left field so the Tigers could find a place for him. Reports say he has done well learning the outfield, but the fact that he is a third baseman at heart helps his trade value as his versatility makes him more marketable to other teams.

Even with the defensive concerns, Castellanos isn't a prized piece because he is a future Gold Glove winner; teams want him because he has the potential to hit 30 home runs and bat .300.

Odds are the Tigers are going to be looking for relief pitching at the deadline and as a team with dreams of returning to the World Series, they won't be looking for a low-level arm -- they'll be looking for elite talent. In order to get a dominant arm like Jonathan Papelbon, it's going to take a top prospect. Luckily, for the Tigers, they've got a piece in Castellanos that would be a great building block for any team.

Garcia and Porcello are both fine young players that could fetch a nice complementary piece for the Tigers, but if the team is serious about acquiring a major upgrade, Castellanos is the best chip it has.

Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has followed the Detroit Tigers his entire life. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.

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