CHICAGO -- Nick Castellanos was a high-school star in South Florida, but he already has a following in Detroit, where his mother's family calls home. With any luck, he'll be making that trip himself sometime soon.
The Tigers' first Draft without a traditional first-round pick since 1991 didn't change their tactic of going after highly rated talent. Detroit used its first selection in Monday's First-Year Player Draft, the 44th pick overall, on the highly touted infielder Castellanos from Archbishop McCarthy High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The selection didn't come until the compensation round, but it gave the Tigers the highly ranked hitter they say they coveted going into the Draft.
"Just to see Nick Castellanos at our pick at 44, I was ecstatic -- maybe as ecstatic as any pick that I've had," said Tigers scouting director David Chadd.
Castellanos, a shortstop and third baseman in high school who is projected to play third professionally, batted .542 in high school this season with six home runs, 41 RBIs, 34 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He was honored as the Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year and competed with the under-18 squad for USA Baseball that won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela last fall.
"It really was amazing the amount of people that came to see him play this year," Archbishop McCarthy coach Rich Bielski told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week. "He has really handled all the attention and stayed focused. He has so much determination to hone his skills and improve. We feel confident he's going to do very well for whatever team selects him."
For all of the high-school honors Castellanos garnered, he hit the Tigers' radar last summer on a big league stage. He put on a hitting display at Wrigley Field, of all places, for the Under Armour All-American Game, in which he went 4-for-4 with four doubles and three RBIs. He won Most Valuable Player honors, but he also earned Detroit's attention.
"Nick Castellanos was someone that we as a group thought an awful lot about," Chadd said. "He was somebody we targeted since last summer. Just his tool set and the complete package was impossible for us to pass up at No. 44."
At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Castellanos already has a big frame and has the hitting potential to go with it. His power potential has been well discussed and projected as he advances in the Minor Leagues. However, he is also projected to have the arm strength and athleticism to become a good defender with time.
"His hitability, for me, is plus," Chadd said. "I think he's going to have plus power down the road. I see him more as a third baseman for us. He really shined in all of the summer showcases in the summer. This is a young man we all had seen since last summer -- we regard him in a very high manner. And to go along with it, he's an average runner."
So how did Castellanos fall out of the first round? He was widely considered to be a first-round talent but has committed to attend the University of Miami. The fact that the Tigers weren't scared off by signability only fits their history; they've taken chances on similar high-school players in recent years with Rick Porcello in 2007 and Jacob Turner and Daniel Fields last year. All three signed.
Castellanos becomes the first position player taken with the Tigers' top Draft pick since Cameron Maybin in 2005. Assuming he slots in at third base in the Tigers system, he would immediately become Detroit's best prospect there. The Tigers have had a dearth of young talent at third base for nearly a decade since drafting Scott Moore with the eighth overall pick in 2002. Detroit drafted former Ohio State infielder Ronnie Bourquin with its second-round pick in 2006 and slotted him at third, but he had mixed results before Major League Baseball suspended him for 50 games this past winter for violation of MLB's drug policy.
Four picks after selecting Castellanos, the Tigers added to their bullpen depth by drafting University of Texas closer Chance Ruffin with the 48th overall selection. The son of former Major League reliever Bruce Ruffin, the right-hander boasts a fastball that has topped out at 95 mph while closing for the Longhorns, and he complements the fastball with a quality slider.
Compensation round: Chance Ruffin, RHP, University of Texas
Ruffin began his collegiate career as a starter for the Longhorns two years ago but was highly effective as the team's closer in his junior season. Beyond his 14 saves, he has struck out 96 batters over 61 2/3 innings. His last outing was a solid performance in which he earned the final four outs to seal an NCAA regional title.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.