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How good can Nicholas Castellanos be?

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After signing a $64 million contract in the offseason, expectations were high for Nicholas Castellanos in a Cincinnati Reds uniform.

Castellanos’ free agency was a divisive topic. He has struggled defensively at third and in the outfield, and as he has pointed out in the past, his offensive numbers were harmed by playing half his games at Comerica Park.

Switching to the hitter friendly Great American Ball Park, Castellanos’ raw numbers were always going to improve. The introduction of a universal DH should have worked in his favour, though he’s played every game in right field so far.

Castellanos has started the 2020 season as well as he could have possibly hoped for. His 223 wRC+ is bettered only by JaCoby Jones and Aaron Judge. This is, of course, a small sample size.

Castellanos is not going to hit like this over a full season, but he might keep it up for the majority of this shortened campaign. Once again, this should all be qualified by the fact we are talking about just 51 plate appearances, but Castellanos is walking markedly more than he ever has done before (10.6%). While the ISO is not going to stay at its currently hilarious .467, an improved walk rate would be the most sustainable change that Castellanos could make.


Walking more is what could elevate Castellanos from the above average hitter he was in Detroit to an offensive star.

There is every chance this is just a red hot start. It is a purple patch that is not just luck, however. The results Castellanos has enjoyed in the opening games of this season have been a consequence of hard contact. He is in the top 1% in the league in barrel rate and expected slugging.

His patience is greater than in previous years. He’s swinging at just over 65% of pitches in the zone, compared 75% last season and 77% the year before. There’s more swing and miss in his approach (a 37.5% whiff rate is in the 12th percentile) – Castellanos is swinging less, but he’s swinging hard. He’s driving the ball more than ever (46.7%) and hitting it on the ground much significantly less than in the rest of his career (26.7%).

None of this means much long-term at this stage. They are trends to keep an eye on this season progresses, and while a 60-game streak like this is still no guarantee of how he will perform in 2021, it begins to become a worthwhile sample.

Castellanos’ MVP-level start to the season is not about a change of ballpark. He’s doing the good things more – walking, driving the ball hard – and it’s paying off.


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