by Ray Kuhn
At one point in the not too distant past Nick Castellanos was considered a top prospect. He will turn 25 about a month before Opening Day, so is it too soon to write him off as a player who didn’t live up to his once lofty expectations?
Judging from his current ADP, 207, which has him being selected as the 20th third baseman, fantasy owners aren’t expecting all that much. While he will not challenge to join the rarified air inhabited by Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado, at the very least Castellanos has the potential to be a value pick for those who wait to fill their third base or corner infield slot. At a minimum, there is no reason why he shouldn’t outperform is current ADP and provide some upside.
Following the 2010 season he first appeared on Baseball America’s top prospect list, checking in at 65. Over the next two years his ranking improved to 45 and then 21 before falling to 25 after the 2013 season; which would be his final year before graduating to the Majors. Castellanos still possesses the skills that made him a top prospect, so let’s take a look at why he could be labeled a “disappointment” thus far in his career.
While averaging 541 AB in 2014 and 2015, Castellanos managed 26 HR. Combine that with batting averages of .259 and .255 and we don’t have much to get excited about. That wasn’t the case last season as we saw things begin to change. His season was interrupted by a hand injury in August, so Castellanos’ final stat line for the season doesn’t accurately depict the season he was having (representing a buying opportunity).
We have to start with the batting average. For the season he hit .285, which is a substantial improvement on the two previous season but not an improvement I would be 100% confident in. He did see his ground ball percentage drop from 36% to 31% with the increase being even distributed to his line drive and fly ball rates. Castellanos was also the beneficiary of a career high 35% hit rate; previously 33% in the last two seasons. While his expected batting average did rise to .260, his contact rate and walk percentage remained relatively constant so I wouldn’t bank on anything more than a .265 batting average. The good news is that we have an established floor of .255, a so a full regression wouldn’t truly damage your team.
If you merely project Castellanos’ stats to include the extra 100 or so at bats he missed due to his injury, a pleasant picture is painted. Expecting him to hit 25 home runs while driving in 80 runs, with that all important room for upside, is quite plausible. After all, he did hit 14 home runs in 304 first half at bats last season. The best part is that his underlying power metrics support this growth; aside from the 3% increase to his fly ball rate.
For the season Castellanos had a Power Index of 135 compared to his previous career high of 118 in 2015. Even more impressive is that per his Expected Power of 166, there is even more room for growth. We also saw Castellanos’ home run per fly ball rate climb from 9% to 14% so that helped.
Castellanos still has room grow and his skill set and metrics speak to that. While no longer a prospect, there is still upside along with a track record of at least solid performance. The price doesn’t hurt, especially since he was hindered and limited by his hand injury in the second half of the season.
Source – Baseball HQ
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