Draft prospect Castellanos has pop
Florida prep teen attracted attention with bat
All Nick Castellanos was told was that he had to get up early and go to Miami with his dad -- and that he needed to bring his bat. So the Archbishop McCarthy high school senior, being a good kid, did as he was told.
"I thought it was a meeting with coaches or something like that," said the talented infielder who projects to be a first-round pick in this year's Draft, which will begin live on MLB.com and MLB Network at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, June 7. "I showed up to the field in shorts and a shirt."
Castellanos probably felt underdressed when he saw Alex Rodriguez stroll onto the field. The two took ground balls for a little while before heading to A-Rod's house for an hour-long hitting session in the All-Star's personal cages. While Castellanos was certainly star-struck, he was able to settle in when it came time to do what he does best: swing the bat.
"Hitting is always hitting. I felt comfortable once I was inside the cages," Castellanos said. "It was a shock at first. He's one of my favorite players. After we got into the cage, when we were hitting, it was quiet. I didn't want to bother him. It's working time. We did our own thing. After that we talked about Major League life. It was a great experience."
This week's Draft Reports
|Dixon Anderson||Cal Berkeley|
|Ryan Bolden||Madison Central HS, Miss.|
|Nick Castellanos||Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.||Gauntlett Eldemire||Ohio|
|Dave Filak||SUNY, Oneonta|
|Mel Rojas Jr.||Wabash CC|
Castellanos has two great experiences to look forward to in the coming days. The first is the playoffs as his Archbishop McCarthy team prepares for the state semifinals on Friday. If all goes well, he and his teammates will be playing for a title on Saturday. The tournament provides a look to scouts who are trying to figure out where he might go in his second experience: the Draft. His name has been mentioned recently in talk about the top 10 picks, and the playoffs give scouts a chance to see him a couple of more times in high-pressure situations.
"I wouldn't say it's a high-pressure situation," Castellanos corrected. "It's a high-fun situation. There are only four teams left in the state still playing baseball. We made it this far having fun, and that's not going to change."
Castellanos has made a few changes over the course of his high school career. The first was in which school he's attending. He went to baseball powerhouse American Heritage for two years before moving over the Archbishop McCarthy. He was on the Heritage club that included top 2008 picks Eric Hosmer and Adrian Nieto and won a state title. This time around, while Castellanos downplays it, a victory in the playoffs would feel a little different.
"I guess I've played a bigger part, but it's not all me," Castellanos said. "No one can win a game by yourself. It's you and your teammates. I guess I played a bigger role, but a state championship is a state championship."
Castellanos' other switch has been in position. When the Archbishop McCarthy coach asked him to slide over from his usual third base to play shortstop, Castellanos didn't hesitate. If it would help the team win, there was nothing to consider. Not only has the move helped his team, but there's been an added side benefit.
"I think it helped me a lot, because I got to show more defensive work and athleticism," said Castellanos, whom most feel will move back to third at the next level. "I'm pretty happy with it. If anybody's keeping me at shortstop, that's an honor. It's fun to play."
While most prep players of this caliber make the summer showcase tour and play in the big single events, Castellanos' relationship with one of those organizations runs a bit deeper. He wasn't just a part of the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field that's powered by Baseball Factory, he's probably one of the Baseball Factory's proudest -- and faithful -- alumni.
Castellanos saw a flyer for a one-day event when he was in eighth grade. When he performed well, he got invited to a week-long showcase at Dodgertown (now known as Vero Beach Sports Village) on Florida's Treasure Coast. A strong showing there kept the invitations and the work going.
"That's when I first started coming on the scene," Castellanos said. "They've helped me all along the way through high school. By the time they sent the invitation for Wrigley, they were familiar with me as a player and a person."
As a player, Castellanos is an athlete who can run and hit, with plenty of projectable power. It's that future pop that likely has most teams intrigued and considering him for an early-round selection. Castellanos knows the scouts have been pouring in to try to figure all of that out, but he's never let it affect the way he performs or carries himself on the field.
"This is going to sound weird, but ever since I was younger, there were guys there," Castellanos said. "[Playing with guys like] Hosmer and Nieto, it was always somebody else but me they were coming to see. When I see someone there, it's never sunk it that they were there for me. That's how I look at it. I never stared at the field and thought, 'Wow, they're here for me.' That puts unnecessary pressure on myself."
So would spending too much time thinking about his Draft status and exactly what might happen on June 7. For now, the young infielder has blinders on, keeping his eye on what he hopes is going to be a championship-winning weekend.
"It's unreal; it's really exciting," Castellanos said. "The Draft, I really can't control. What I can control is being with my team at States. That's where my focus is, almost all of it. After this weekend, I can start thinking about all of that."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.