Nick Castellanos had five hits, including a double and a home run, scored five runs and drove in two RBI to lead Detroit in a series sweep over the Twins earlier this week.
The 5-for-12 showing at the plate bumped his batting average to .350, the best in the American League.
Two years ago, Castellanos, one of the Tigers’ hot-shot prospects, was struggling to adjust to major league pitching in an underwhelming start to his first full season in Detroit. His average rested hovered in the low .200s and he was striking out about once per game. Does this sound familiar?
Byron Buxton, the Twins’ highly touted prospect and former No. 2 overall draft pick, failed to live up to the hype in his first chance to start the season in the big leagues. Buxton totaled just seven hits in 45 at-bats for a dismal .156 batting average. He also struck out 24 times, four coming in his final game before being sent down to Class AAA in late April.
Two arguably positive stats worth noting: Five of his seven hits were extra-base hits and he stole two bases in the 10 times he reached base.
Buxton wasn’t much better in his two stints with the Twins last season, compiling a .209 batting average. In total, he has just 187 plate appearances at the highest level, raising the idea that he might be the type of player that will need 1,000 at-bats to get comfortable with big league pitching.
Castellanos hit .259 and .255, respectively, in his first two seasons while tallying up over 1,000 plate appearances. He started the 2016 season with 1,192 plate appearances and is now one of the best hitters in the game.
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, the 2007 No. 2 overall draft pick, bounced up and down from the big leagues to the minors from 2011 to 2014 while trying to figure out major league pitching.
Moustakas hit .212 in 2014, his third full season in the big leagues, and like Buxton, was struggling to maintain an average north of .100 throughout the first month of the season. Moustakas didn't hit .200 until late July. The Royals wouldn't give up on him, though, and after nearly 2,000 big league plate appearances Moustakas figured it out. During the Royals’ 2015 World Series run, he hit .284 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI. He finished 21st in AL MVP voting and was an all-star.
Chicago Cubs slugger Kris Bryant is another example. Bryant debuted with huge expectations, but struggled to be consistent and saw his average fall to .244 in August of his first full season. However, once plate appearances started piling up, his success improved and he closed out the season hitting .275 and won the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year.
Washington’s Bryce Harper also hit similar rookie slump like Bryant in his 2012, but recovered as his plate appearances piled up to earn the NL Rookie of the Year award.
In 2010, Florida’s Giancarlo Stanton saw his average nearly dip below .200 in early July, but the more reps he got, the more he improved and finished with a .259 average. He is now a three-time all-star and finished second in NL MVP voting in 2014.
Eddie Rosario could also benefit from more plate appearances. The Twins outfielder hit. 267 as a rookie, but was demoted this week after his average dropped to .209. Rosario has 598 total plate appearances.