EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to her work here at BCB, Ashley MacLennan is an editor at our SB Nation Tigers site Bless You Boys. I asked her to provide a view of new Cub Nicholas Castellanos from a Tigers viewpoint.
It was less than two weeks ago a clearly aggravated Nicholas Castellanos referred to then home park Comerica as “a joke” and implied that its cavernous 420’ outfield was detrimental to Tigers hitters and their stats. While this clearly indicates that Castellanos is not well versed in park-adjusted stats like OPS+ or wRC+, it does give a glimpse of the frustration Castellanos was feeling towards the end of his Tigers career.
In the offseason, he all but begged the team to trade him when it became clear he would not be getting a contract extension. “He would rather start with his new club going into spring training,” his then-agent David Meter told the Detroit Free Press in January (Castellanos is now represented by Scott Boras). That did not come to pass, and Castellanos was forced to spend the bulk of the season with a team that was unwilling to commit to him. He wasn’t shy when it came to speaking publicly about it.
This is not to suggest that the Cubs have acquired a bad egg. In fact, the drudgery of the first half of the season will likely see Castellanos’ spirits bolstered considerably now that he’s been moved to a team in contention — a team with a shorter outfield, where many of his Comerica doubles will become Wrigley home runs.
I have been watching Nicholas Castellanos play for the Tigers since he debuted in 2013. I’ve seen him flounder as an utterly disastrous third baseman (his BEST DRS at the position was -9, his worst, -30), and then watched him move to right field, where he has not fared much better defensively, but has actually shown improvement in the three seasons he played the position. Castellanos will never be a great outfielder, but he can become one who is not a liability. Whether he can do that with the Cubs over the next three months, well, that’s less certain.
Castellanos’s real value is in his offense, though you can be forgiven for not seeing it in his 2019 numbers. He is hitting .273/.328/.462, numbers that are decent on the surface, but for the previous three seasons his SLG was at or near the .500 mark. His 3.0 fWAR from 2018 has dropped to 1.0 this year, and his wRC+ dropped from 130 in 2018 (best on the Tigers) to 106 this season. Still better than average, and he has hit 11 home runs, even in those deep, deep Comerica outfields.
At Wrigley he has a real shot at increasing that output, and with increased productivity, Castellanos is likely to return to form in a serious way. Over the past several seasons he shone as a team leader, with a great attitude, charming personality (look for those top uniform buttons to rarely stay closed, and bubblegum to be snapping in the field). In spite of the doldrums he suffered through this season, he is a fun, talented player, and when his bat gets hot, he may very well turn into a late-season fan favorite.
Just don’t have too many expectations of his defense, and you’ll like him just fine.
Oh, and it’s Nicholas, not Nick.