The Cincinnati Reds have been more than aggressive on the market in the last two years in their effort of ending a seven-year postseason drought. They made another statement, signing former Tigers and Cubs outfielder Nicholas Castellanos to a four-year contract, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Cincinnati had the 6th-worst batting lineup in the Majors – the reason why the team’s historically good rotation didn’t make much of a difference. The Reds’ general manager Nick Krall has moved to address that issue, adding second baseman Mike Moustakas and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to put an end to their offensive misery.
For the majority of his Major League career, Castellanos has been a consistent hitter who has also become more powerful with time. Last season was one of his best, recording .289 batting average alongside career-highs in OPS (.863) and homeruns (27).
The Florida native had a magnificent end to his 2019 campaign after joining the Cubs in July. In just 51 games, Castellanos hit 16 homers, 5 more than in the 100 games he played with Detroit, had a batting average of .321 and a staggering OPS of 1.001.
He performed excellently inside a tough division that includes the Reds. Now, with the Chicago Cubs are slipping out of contention, the Milwaukee Brewers have lost Moustakas and the Cardinals haven’t improved offensively, Castellanos could be the piece that brings the puzzle of the batting order to a long-awaited conclusion.
Not only does the outfield now have star power but it also features valuable depth that could be important in the midst of the questions surrounding the position. Rookie right fielder Aristides Aquino, as noted by MLB-dot-com’s Thomas Harrigan, registered a brutal slump once the calendar turned to September, with ihs OPS going from 1.158 to .619. The Punisher ended up batting .254 in nearly 200 AB – him struggling as a starter for a whole season isn’t out of the equation.
Jesse Winkler didn’t provide the biggest of sparks last year either – his numbers have nothing on what Castellanos provided in Detroit and Chicago. Akiyama’s lack of experience on MLB level, meanwhile, could give the starting last starting place in the outfield to Aquino but the former Seibu Lions player resembles a great Plan B in case Nick Senzel or Aquino struggle.
That’s if Akiyama, who batted .296 or better in his last four years in the NPB, doesn’t win the right field spot – a thought which still looks far from becoming reality but speaks volumes of what he’s capable of. Phillip Ervin rounds up the possible 26-man Opening Day roster as far as the outfield is concerned.
The situation there, however, wouldn’t be looking so satisfying if not for the signing of Castellanos, despite already having some nice depth. It was under fire by many outlets due to having too many question marks and lacking the impact players the team have been searching in order to fix an issue that kept them from competing in 2019.
Speaking of the offence, Castellanos is exactly what the Reds needed on a deeper lineup-related level. During the 2019 season, it struggled mightily, finishing the year 7th-worst in batting average, overseeing a notable focus shift from the team’s best hitter, Eugenio Suarez. Suarez almost matched homerun champion Pete Alonso while producing his lowest groundball % in four years, according to FanGraphs. The trends tend to be the same with the Reds’ new second baseman Mike Moustakas.
His service could be way more effective in this type of lineup, which also has Castellanos, who still hits for average, in spite of a career year in nearly every power-hitting statistic.
The Reds have finally found the balance between their offensive display and one of the best rotations in baseball and are legitimately looking like real contenders not only to win the NL Central division but to be dangerous deep into October. It’s not even Spring Training and Cincinnati seems like one of the teams to watch in 2020.