With pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training on Thursday, several of Philadelphia’s finest have already arrived in Clearwater to prepare for the 2023 season. And while there is no official notice of this player having reported yet, one thing is certain: all eyes will be on Nick Castellanos throughout Spring Training.
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The Phillies’ right fielder, who happens to be turning 31 on March 4th, will look to put his age-30 season behind as he enters year two of his five-year, $100 million contract with the Phillies. Castellanos, who was mainly projected to serve as the Phillies’ left fielder and designated hitter, switching off with Kyle Schwarber, ended up making 119 starts in right field as Phillies’ staple Bryce Harper faced so many injuries, he became the Phillies’ everyday DH.
An off-year for Nick Castellanos
What truly was the main issue, however, was his offensive decline. In 2021 with the Cincinnati Reds, Castellanos clocked in the best year of his career, hitting for a .949 OPS while smoking 34 home runs and a career-best 20.7% SO%. In 2022, those numbers plummeted to a .639 OPS, only 13 home runs, and a higher SO% at 23.3%.
Admittedly, 2021 was the best form of Nick Castellanos that Major League Baseball has seen. Looking out on his entire career (prior to joining the Phillies), Castellanos has earned a .278 batting average and an .814 OPS while averaging 25 home runs per 162 games.
In other words, for those who understand basic statistics (not just baseball statistics), the law of averages should come into play here, causing a rebound. Currently, at his age-31 season, Castellanos is still in the prime of his baseball career and will be for the next several years. While regression will come as Castellanos ages, there is no evidence to indicate that Castellanos’ age should deter from the law of averages.
Do we get Nick Castellanos the Conqueror? Or he who remains?
Looking back two years, there is even more evidence indicating a Castellanos resurgence is on the horizon. Following his free agency after the 2019 season, Castellanos landed with the Reds on a two-year, $30 million contract. During the shortened 2020 season, his first in Cincinnati, Castellanos hit for a paltry .225 average and a .784 OPS. If you compare those numbers to his first year in Philadelphia, it forms an interesting trend.
Castellanos appears to not do well in year one of a contract before settling into form in year two.
The one main difference in Castellanos between 2020 and 2022 was the type of hitter he was. In 2020, Castellanos hit 14 home runs with the Reds over 60 games. In exchange for the power, he struck out at a career-high rate (28.5%) while his average plummeted to .225. In 2022, Castellanos was much less of a home run hitter, hitting 13 in 136 games, striking out 23.3% of the time with a .263 average.
Each year has seemingly brought a different flavor to the variant of Nick Castellanos that Major League Baseball gets. He could be the low-average, high-strikeout, power-hitting line drive hitter. He could also be the cream-of-the-crop consistent threat, going for a high average and high-power output. Or, as the Phillies saw, he could be the player who just can’t seem to find the barrel of the bat, relying on decent ground ball placement to get on base with seldom any power.
If you can’t tell, this article certainly has a bit of a comic book flare to it. But the truth is, in the grand scale of the multiverse, we have seen different variants of Castellanos emerge. All of the information we have, however, points to one likely outcome: a Nick Castellanos resurgence is on tap for 2023.
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire