Nick Castellanos’ impact goes beyond the results

Phillies Nick Castellanos
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos reacts after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of Game 4 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Philadelphia. Could he be moved in a Juan Soto trade?.(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Nick Castellanos’ tenure since signing with the Phillies prior to the 2022 season has been a hot topic of conversation among fans. In 2022, he struggled to get going after a hot start cut short by a wrist injury while being thrust into a more permanent role in the field.

That didn’t bother him, as he grinded to try to improve his outfield defense. In 2023 he came back and was the Phillies only position player named to the All-Star team. Despite a slow start by his standards to the 2024 season, he always seems to be level-headed and approaches the game the same way. His lead-by-example approach has rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Thomson Speaks on Castellanos

After having a big game Wednesday to close out the road trip, Castellanos spoke to the media about what he relies on during a season like this and being an example for the younger players:

I lean on the fact that we have a fantastic group of guys. Just how awesome all these guys are, really. Just play every day, lead by example, do the best I can to not bitch over my at-bats or the game’s not going the way that I want. At least, when the younger guys are going through a hard time they can reflect and see how I go about it and just handle it the best they can.”

Despite some early season struggles, Manager Rob Thomson has continued to pencil his name into the lineup every day. In fact, he is the only player on the roster to have appeared in every game this season. It is the job of the manager and the players to not give in to those emotions and stick to the task at hand. That is exactly what Nick does, and he sets a great example in the process. I asked manager Rob Thomson prior to Saturday’s game about his leadership:

Well, Nick’s Nick. He’s pretty cool and collected. He sits in his locker and talks to everybody, talks to the younger guys and helps them out as much as he can. He’s not a ‘rah-rah’ guy, but he’s going to give that experienced voice whenever it’s needed.”

Rob Thomson, pregame June 1, 2024
Phillies Nationals nick castellanos
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against Washington Nationals pitcher MacKenzie Gore during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If you pay close attention to the Phillies, the relationship between Castellanos and the young outfielders is a close one – it’s even affectionate at times. Matt Gelb of the Athletic wrote about the relationship between he and Rojas last year, mentioning that Castellanos took Rojas under his wing. Per Gelb’s report, as they spent more time together and Rojas started to excel, Castellanos encouraged him to start unbuttoning more of his jersey.

A Teammate’s Opinon

From intimate moments in the outfield, to feeling themselves – this group has become as close as close can get. Fellow outfielder Brandon Marsh spoke with Philly Sports Network/Metro Philadelphia prior to Saturday’s game about how his now-famous band name, “Stay Loose and Sexy, Baby” is more than just a line – it’s a mindset:

It was kind of a joke, but not so much at the same time. We have a really fun group, we mold well together and work well together. There’s times that we can cut up and have some fun, there’s time to be professional and go about our business the right way. I think we just have a good little see-saw effect, when to lock it and and when to have some fun.

Brandon Marsh, pregame June 1, 2024

Marsh also talked about the impact Castellanos has on him and the team, regardless of what the box score shows:

He’s been huge for me coming over to Philly. He calms me down a lot, he’s a guy who’s really just level headedhe’s got his head on his shoulders the right way. He deals with failure the right way. He’s just a good guy to look up to. He goes about the game the right way and plays it the right way. He’s a leader of our team for that reason.”

Brandon Marsh, pregame June 1, 2024

It doesn’t stop there. Castellanos may not have been known for his glove when he came to Philadelphia, but he works hard every day to improve. Several teammates and his manager have talked about his dedication to working with Paco Figueuroa every day on his defense. Nick didn’t have a normal path to becoming an everyday outfielder. After playing third base to start his career, he was moved to the outfield and spent some time as a DH when the opportunity arose. After Wednesday’s game, he spoke about his work with Paco and the process involved with learning a position later in your career:

It’s just repetition, right. I had to learn how to play outfield in the big leagues – it’s not something I learned how to do in amateur ball. I just want to make sure I refine – kinda get my touches, my jumps,  open up to each side at least once or twice just to make sure everything is crisp because you play every day and if you don’t continue to do those little things – you don’t want the first time you’re running for a ball in the gap to be in the 9th inning with guys on base.

Nick Castellanos, postgame May 29, 2024

Marsh also spoke with me about his outfield work with Paco and how he gets out early. “He’s been nails out there for us, and we need him to continue to do that.” Castellanos has set a National League record with 404 straight games without an error. The Major League record is 440 games, set by Robbie Grossman.

Heating Up

Castellanos has been hitting the ball harder as of late and the results are slowly but surely coming around, especially over the last month. In a trip to San Diego late in April, he faced Joe Musgrove – a pitcher he’s had plenty of success against in his career and it seemed to get him going a bit. In that contest, he hit just his second extra-base hit, his first home run of the season. Since then, his slugging percentage (.447) is much closer to his career average of .469. Over his last 100 at-bats, his expected numbers have also steadily increased.

I asked Thomson about Nick pregame, and he saw this improvement coming even further back and sid he thinks he’s close to breaking- noting his propensity as of late to hit the ball hard and loft the ball to center field. He went on to say “now, it’s a little more consistent. I like his at-bats right now.”

Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryson Stott, center, celebrates with Alec Bohm, left, and Nick Castellanos after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning of Game 2 in an NL wild-card baseball playoff series against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Nick has noticed, his manager has noticed, and he continues to stay focused. He gives you consistent effort every night. Whether it be the fact that he hasn’t made an error in nearly three years, or hustling in the second inning Friday night to turn what would’ve been a bloop single into a double to put two men in scoring position – he tries to be a constant example. That hustle prevented a double play from ending the inning and led to a three-run frame instead.

And yet, he is always on the task – the goal. After the Phillies’ exciting win on Wednesday to end their time in San Francisco where Nick had three hits, he was asked about bottling this feeling up and bringing it home with them. He said “We don’t, really. We enjoy the flight and we get home, then we have a brand new baseball game at home and just focus on winning that one.

That level-headed and calm approach seems to be how Nick approaches everything, and what differentiates his leadership in a team full of veterans. In bigger moments, he has performed above his season averages – hitting .255/.333/.415 with runners in scoring position. His own nerves aren’t the only ones he’s able to keep in check in crunch time – Marsh spoke about how important he is for everyone in high-pressure moments:

He does a really good job of calming the nerves down of other people around him. In big situations, down one – say [Edwin] Diaz is coming in to close the game for New York or [Ryan] Helsley for [The Cardinals]. In a big time situation, a lot of people kinda get scared and tighten up and he’s a guy that calms us all down and really gets us going.”

Brandon Marsh, pregame June 1, 2024

Regardless of how you feel about Nick and the numbers that show on his stat page, his impact on this team cannot be denied. After a double in the first inning Saturday night, Castellanos now has 603 extra-base hits in his career – just the eighth man to accomplish that feat since the start of the 2014 season. He is also just two hits shy of 1500 for his career. Thomson and the rest of the team continue to support him while he steadily improves, the same support that he gives everyone on and off the field. One thing is for sure, his calming presence is required in the slog that is the major league baseball season.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)