Nick Castellanos Is Mashing Once more

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Invoice Streicher-USA TODAY Sports activities

After I final checked in on Nick Castellanos, he was not in place. Although he was taking part in in a World Sequence with the Phillies, the group with which he signed a five-year, $100 million contract after the lockout resulted in March, his season had been a disappointment, and other than the occasional massive hit right here and highlight-reel catch there — the latter class of which had appeared significantly unlikely given his defensive metrics — his postseason had been bleak as effectively, proper right down to his making the ultimate out in Video games 5 and 6 of the World Sequence because the Phillies fell to the Astros. Happily, after turning the web page on 2022, Castellanos has reemerged as one of many Phillies’ best hitters.

When the Phillies signed Castellanos, he was coming off the most effective season of his profession, having made his first All-Star group whereas setting across-the-board profession highs with a .309/.362/.576 line, 34 homers, a 139 wRC+, and three.6 WAR. He had opted out following the second yr of a four-year, $64 million take care of the Reds, however regardless of notable curiosity from a number of groups together with the Padres and Marlins, he didn’t safe a deal earlier than the lockout started in early December. As soon as he did lastly comply with phrases with the Phillies, eight days after the lockout ended, he felt as if he needed to rush into the season, adjusting to a brand new group, new metropolis, new fanbase, and new media… and with a brand new youngster on the way in which. Quickly, Bryce Harper’s elbow harm pressured Castellanos to play proper subject frequently as an alternative of DHing a big quantity of the time as initially deliberate.

Issues didn’t go effectively. Castellanos matched his career-worst 94 wRC+ by way of a .263/.305/.389 line, set profession lows with a 5.2% stroll fee and 6.6% barrel fee, and homered simply 13 instances. He was dreadful afield (-10 RAA, -8 DRS, -7.3 UZR) as effectively, and whereas his -0.8 WAR didn’t make him the majors’ least beneficial place participant, not one of the 31 others with WARs that low or decrease — together with future Corridor of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto — had simply set sail on a $100 million contract. Including additional insult, within the postseason, Castellanos hit .185/.232/.246 in 69 plate appearances. Not even just a few memorable diving catches might offset that.

As he lately informed Sports activities Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, Castellanos started the offseason by regrouping with spouse Jess, confronting the anxieties he’d handled all season relating to his separation from his household (the couple lives in suburban New Jersey with their younger son, whereas Castellanos’ son from his first marriage lives in Miami), and conceding his personal lack of presence:

“There wasn’t steadiness to any of that through the yr, and I might really feel that. So that will stress me out, and every part on the baseball subject is manner tougher to do once you’re wired.” When he was bodily at dwelling, he was mentally on the ballpark. When he was bodily on the ballpark, he was mentally at dwelling. He might by no means calm down.

Within the spring, the 31-year-old Castellanos labored with hitting coach Kevin Lengthy, making changes to maneuver nearer to the pitcher and the plate in an effort to assault sliders a bit earlier and resist chasing low-and-away breaking balls. He nonetheless turned up on Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS-driven listing of bust candidates, and the Phillies’ proper subject scenario made my listing of the most important remaining holes on Nationwide League contenders.

Whereas it’s far too early to say that he’s having the final snicker, Castellanos is hitting an entire lot extra just like the participant the Phillies thought they have been getting: .315/.362/.498 with eight homers and a 132 wRC+, numbers that symbolize profession highs in batting common and on-base proportion in addition to his second-highest wRC+. Thoughts you, it hasn’t been the smoothest journey to get so far. Castellanos obtained off to a sizzling begin, batting .313/.364/.509 (136 wRC+) in April, however sank to .265/.303/.392 (92 wRC+) in Could. He’s been red-hot in June (.442/.479/.721, 221 wRC+), admittedly whereas dealing with the Nationals, Tigers, and Dodgers, three groups whose workers ERAs rank among the many majors’ backside 10. Although he went a modest 3-for-12 towards the Dodgers this previous weekend, his fifth-inning RBI double off Michael Grove supplied the go-ahead run in Friday evening’s 5-4 win, and his seventh-inning two-run homer off Nick Robertson took the starch out of Los Angeles’ comeback try in Sunday’s 7-3 win, serving to Philadelphia seize its third collection in a row. He adopted by going 2-for-4 with a stroll towards Arizona in a 9-8 loss on Monday evening.

Digging into the numbers, Castellanos has gotten a bit extra selective on the plate, however the change is hardly radical, no less than if we’re going by his plate self-discipline stats. He’s chasing 39.7% of pitches exterior the zone, down from final yr’s career-high 43.6% however above his profession mark of 38%. His total swing fee of 54.7% is down from final yr’s profession excessive of 57% as effectively. Even so, he has a career-high 17.8% swinging strike fee (up practically one level from final yr) and a career-low 67.3% contact fee (down practically three factors from final yr). Although his stroll fee has improved from 5.2% to 7.2%, his strikeout fee has climbed from 23.3% to 24.4%. The place the distinction in Castellanos’ selectivity exhibits up extra is in a breakdown of his Statcast Swing/Take runs:

Nick Castellanos Swing/Take Runs

Season Coronary heart Sw Coronary heart Take Coronary heart Shadow Sw Shadow Take Shadow Chase Waste
2019 5 -6 -1 2 0 2 8 18
2020 -2 -4 -6 -3 -2 -5 9 1
2021 25 -4 21 -5 0 -5 9 33
2022 4 -5 -1 -19 -2 -20 10 -6
2023 10 -2 8 2 0 2 2 14

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Castellanos is doing a significantly better job of creating swing selections on balls within the Shadow zone — outlined as 3.3 inches in both route of the rulebook strike zone. When he made contact final yr with such pitches, he hit .237 with a .316 slugging proportion, for a .251 wOBA; Statcast valued that at 19 runs beneath common, whereas he was a further two runs beneath common on the balls he took in that space (with rounding, the sum of these is -20, not -21). This time round, he’s hitting .293 and slugging .504, for a .353 wOBA on balls within the Shadow zone, and a Stacast worth of two runs — a large enchancment. He’s additionally doing a significantly better job than final yr in the case of avoiding swinging at Waste pitches, these which are nowhere close to the zone, and is getting higher contact when he swings at pitches within the Coronary heart zone:

Nick Castellanos Coronary heart and Shadow Zones

Coronary heart PA HR AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA EV
2021 213 23 .431 .387 .885 .807 .541 .496 94.4
2022 196 10 .359 .318 .590 .579 .405 .382 92.6
2023 96 1 .406 .396 .615 .654 .437 .447 93.5
Shadow PA HR AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA EV
2021 252 11 .267 .261 .461 .420 .313 .300 88.5
2022 261 3 .237 .237 .316 .333 .251 .259 84.7
2023 132 7 .293 .242 .504 .408 .353 .303 87.7

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Castellanos’ total high quality of contact has rebounded, whilst the 2 traits kind of appear to be offsetting one another:

Nick Castellanos Batted Ball Profile

Season GB/FB GB% FB% Pull% BBE EV Barrel% HardHit%
2019 0.95 37.7% 39.6% 40.8% 475 89.0 10.1% 41.3%
2020 0.88 34.7% 39.3% 32.0% 150 91.0 16.0% 46.0%
2021 1.05 37.5% 35.8% 39.4% 416 89.8 10.6% 46.9%
2022 1.10 41.9% 38.1% 37.4% 396 87.5 6.6% 34.6%
2023 1.34 43.5% 32.5% 45.0% 191 89.7 11.0% 45.5%

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Castellanos’ groundball fee is increased than in any season besides his 2013 rookie marketing campaign; he hadn’t been above 40% since till final yr. He typically hasn’t been all that productive on grounders given his declining pace (he’s within the forty sixth percentile this yr, down from the sixty fourth simply two years in the past), however this yr he’s hitting .301 and slugging .349 on grounders, up from .259 AVG/.265 SLG final yr and .256/.276 in 2021. In the meantime, his pull fee is an eyelash forward of his career-high 44.9%, set in 2018. He’s hitting .453 and slugging .779 on such balls, a bit extra impactful than final yr (.446/.635) and extra according to 2021 (.411/.785) — with these balls occupying a bigger footprint; with 86 pulled batted balls up to now, he’s already greater than midway to his 2021 whole of 164.

As for Castellanos’ precise changes on the plate, these eyes don’t really see a lot distinction in the place he’s standing relative to the plate once I evaluate heart subject digital camera photographs from Residents Financial institution Park from final fall to this season, however that’s onerous to identify from a regular broadcast, with out overhead photographs. He has spoken of letting the ball journey and making contact deeper within the strike zone. Whereas he’s nonetheless struggling to withstand the low-and-away breaking pitches, his Statcast numbers on sliders are evening and day relative to final yr, and likewise, he’s annihilating fastballs:

Nick Castellanos vs. Pitch Varieties, 2021–23

Pitch Season Runs % PA AVG SLG wOBA Whiff% HH%
4-Seam 2021 20 28.5% 156 .357 .776 .488 17.1% 54.4%
4-Seam 2022 5 26.6% 131 .265 .460 .357 25.7% 57.1%
4-Seam 2023 12 25.0% 67 .431 .638 .507 18.9% 62.2%
Sinker 2021 2 15.6% 104 .389 .558 .430 10.6% 57.0%
Sinker 2022 2 14.4% 88 .317 .402 .356 17.4% 45.7%
Sinker 2023 2 15.2% 40 .378 .432 .408 14.1% 46.9%
Curve 2021 3 12.6% 72 .239 .537 .353 43.6% 32.7%
Curve 2022 -4 9.6% 54 .231 .269 .243 36.4% 16.7%
Curve 2023 -6 7.4% 18 .000 .000 .039 43.8% 10.0%
Slider 2021 0 23.3% 141 .228 .441 .321 44.6% 44.0%
Slider 2022 -6 31.7% 182 .251 .413 .301 39.4% 25.4%
Slider 2023 8 24.9% 68 .328 .701 .448 46.9% 40.9%
Changeup 2021 6 14.2% 72 .294 .529 .381 42.1% 37.3%
Changeup 2022 -3 10.9% 64 .213 .230 .235 40.3% 26.1%
Changeup 2023 1 12.8% 43 .225 .300 .287 31.3% 31.4%

That’s a 14-run turnaround on sliders alone; he’s practically a win and a half higher in that division, although as you’ll be able to see, he has but to get a success on a curveball this yr. Evaluating his numbers on low-and-away sliders (these in Gameday zone 14), he hit and slugged .079 towards the 40 of them with which he made contact final yr, and is at .100/.100 on 21 of them this yr, with a .118 to .101 edge in xwOBA, however that’s not saying a lot, and including in curves and sweepers to the 2 seasons tilts the steadiness in direction of 2022 (.111 to .102 in wOBA). That stated, if I embody these within the backside exterior nook of the zone (Gameday zone 9) towards all breaking pitches, he’s improved from .192 to .326 by way of slugging proportion, and from .155 to .228 by way of wOBA. Child steps there, greater enhancements elsewhere.

It’s debatable whether or not these enhancements have carried over to the sphere, the place by his personal admission to Apstein, Castellanos the outfielder would let his thoughts wander from his final at-bat to “the standing of the nation, the economic system, international relations.” The depth of the postseason saved him locked in on the scenario, and he has discovered a solution to carry that over. “My focus was manner increased simply because the surroundings demanded it,” he informed Apstein extra lately. “And now that I’ve been capable of really feel that, I now can maintain myself to that.”

That change hasn’t proven up on Castellanos’ outfield jumps (fifth percentile, down from seventh percentile), and whereas we should always all the time take small-sample defensive information with a grain of salt, he’s at -1 OAA this yr in comparison with -10 final yr, although his -4 DRS and -6.2 UZR, compiled in about half as many innings, really undertaking to be as dangerous or worse. Nonetheless, his 1.3 WAR already represents a 2.1-win swing relative to final yr, and it’s clear that he’s in a significantly better place mentally. He could not be capable to supply the Phillies fairly as a lot geopolitical experience, however his rejuvenated bat greater than makes up for it.

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