What to do about… Nick Castellanos
One of my favorite prospects, and now one of my favorite players, Nick Castellanos is in this midst of a hot streak that has seen him raise his slash line from .253/.305/.397 on August 9th to .263/.312/.411 as of August 27th. Selective endpoints and all that, but I thought his recent stretch, combined with an overall mediocre season was worth taking a look at to determine what type of value he’ll hold. Basically, we’re asking the question that Herm Edwards answered years ago: Is he who we thought he was?
For starters, he’s striking out more than anticipated given his preternatural bat-to-ball ability, but that’s somewhat understandable given that he’s a rookie. He’s not walking much, but it’s not a brutal figure at 6.6 percent, and would be livable if he made more contact, as his .325 BABIP would push him toward a higher overall average. The biggest issue, and one his recent streak has ameliorated, is the lack of power present in his game. Predictions of 25 home run power might have always been far-fetched, but with only 10 on the season, he’s been a disappointment even by milder standards. He hasn’t been able to back that home run shortage up with loads of doubles either, which is the more surprising development, as he’s always shown a knack for barreling baseballs.
While he’s fallen short of what the scouting reports dictated thus far, it’s useful to remind ourselves of what those were, as they’re still valuable in assessing what might be (from Jordan Gorosh, March 5):
Hit – 65 – Superb barrel control; excellent hand-eye; lets ball travel deep in hitting zone; trusts hands implicitly; RCF is comfort zone. Must look for better pitches to drive; low heartbeat hitter; can get a bit overaggressive because of his outstanding coordination.
Power – 60 – 35 doubles, 55 XBH possible; over the fence power still developing; needs to pull ball more with authority
Castellanos has been neither an above average hitter, nor an above average hitter for power. The only plus is that while he’s been bad, he’s been bad at a position of relative scarcity. Still, in the second half, he’s taken his OPS from 701 to 782, mostly on the strength of walking more often, and hitting for more power. Those secondary skills are going to lead to higher quality at-bats and more pitches to hit thanks to being ahead in the count. While his home park is likely to be considered a negative, Castellanos has actually excelled there, posting an 810 OPS at home compared to a 640 OPS on the road.
Another positive aspect is Castellanos’ willingness to use all fields. Look at this spray chart from Brooks Baseball:
Combine his all-fields approach with an impressive 27 percent line drive rate (understanding that LD% can be wonky), and there’s a lot of batting average upside here. While he hasn’t cut down on the strikeouts just yet, he’s working to by employing an emergency stance with no stride whatsoever. This is bad news on the power front, as the swing is all hips/arms, but better for timing and contact, but should enable him to address his strikeout rate concerns going forward.
All in all, it’s not been what we wanted from Castellanos, but it’s not been discouraging either. Prospect development isn’t linear, and Castellanos still carries every bit the ceiling he had when the season began. There’s a lot of positives beneath the surface, and as he continues to improve his approach at the plate, he’ll not only walk more often, but get himself into hitters counts, translating to a better batting average and more extra base hits.