Nick Castellanos and the bounce-back spring

OK, others who watch the Philadelphia Phillies might consider it a bit early to do this piece. It’s about Nick Castellanos and what looks like a very solid comeback for 2023, the year after a disappointing season.

Castellanos’ contract has largely escaped extended discussion in the flurry of $300 million contracts signed recently, including two by his current teammates. However, the outfielder is fairly expensive.

Worse, those of us who trust old eyes to judge player performances would likely say that Nick Castellanos flat-out stunk in ‘22, considering his new contract, until the playoffs. He looked lost at the plate, and his mistaken swings were too numerous to count. Nick seemed to find new ways to miss pitches.

There was hardly a hitter who looked more lost than Castellanos last season.

And I was a guy who wanted Castellanos before Schwarber. Perhaps he’ll redeem my opinion. He’s off to a grand start.

On April 22 he broke a streak of homerless games unmatched in his career by pounding two pitches out of Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won that game, 4-3. Castellanos had two of the possible four RBI. However, those who actually watch baseball know that Casty bombing some fan was only a matter of time.

He doesn’t look clueless anymore. He’s not swinging at bad pitches. As Paul Casella notes, he’s “swinging at 48.8 percent of pitches overall, the lowest rate in his career.” OK, who knew that swinging at close to 50 percent of the pitches you see is conservative, especially for an aggressive hitter?

That doesn’t matter because Castellanos’ production numbers so far are the ones you want. First, he leads all MLB in doubles with 10. Doubles are halfway home, so it’s not surprising that he is also tied for fifth in runs scored with 18. Additionally, he is in the top 40 for RBI with 13 although not hitting with runners in scoring position has been a serious problem for the Phillies in general this season.

Before play April 23, he was hitting .310, ten points higher than his average in ’22 after 22 games. His start last spring was considered hot, and this year he just has to avoid that somewhat steep fall-off from last summer.

Before Bryce Harper’s return and considering Rhys Hoskins’ absence, the Phillies will have to lean on Nick Castellanos. He needs to continue his imitation of Raul Ibanez’ first half from 2009.

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