During the offseason someone asked me what the final move I’d like to see for the Cincinnati Reds to put them over the top. My answer was pretty simple: Sign Nick Castellanos – he’s a difference maker in the middle of the lineup. I was sold that it was the move to make.
And then the Reds, who clearly listen to everything I suggest, made the move happen, signing him to 4-year contract – but with option years after both 2020 and 2021.
As a believer that he was a difference maker, even I didn’t expect this kind of start. Nick Castellanos is hitting .340/.411/.840 with an OPS of 1.251. He leads the National League in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, and OPS+ (235).
Nick Castellanos, along with Aaron Judge, are trying to pull “The Babe Ruth” this year. What is a “Babe Ruth”, you ask? Well, that’s where one player hits more home runs than entire teams do for the season. Hat tip to Cespedes Family BBQ on twitter for the note that both players have out homered Arizona.
1. Dodgers – 26
2. Yankees – 24
3. Angels – 23
28. Nationals – 8
Aaron Judge – 7
Nick Castellanos – 7
29. D-backs – 6
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 8, 2020
In a 60-game season, we understand that crazy things could happen because there is less time for things to normalize. One of the bigger things for hitters that we expect to normalize is BABIP. While hitters do have more control over their individual BABIP than pitchers do on their BABIP against them (though they do have a little bit of control here), at the end of the season after 150+ games, a hitter tends to find their true talent level when it comes to BABIP. It doesn’t always happen, but it usually does. Over 60 games (or fewer if a guy doesn’t play every single one of them), that probably isn’t going to happen.
Right now, while hitting .340/.411/.840, you would think that Nick Castellanos had an outrageous BABIP to carry that kind of line. But he really doesn’t. His BABIP in 2020 so far is .345. His BABIP for his career is .334. With that said, his season line probably isn’t sustainable to the point that it has been to this point. The reason for that isn’t the BABIP, which could be sustainable, it’s the home runs. He’s on pace to hit 30 homers this year, which would be 81 in a full season. Castellanos rakes, and he’s got plenty of power – but he doesn’t have that kind of power.
Still, the Reds are getting their money’s worth, and then some early on from their right fielder. He’s been the best hitter in the National League this year. Heck, he’s been the best hitter since last August 1st when he joined the National League with the Cubs after being traded at the deadline in 2019. Since that time, he’s hit .324/.367/.683 with a Major League best 23 home runs (tied with Aaron Judge and Jorge Soler). Only three players have a better OPS+ in that time and all three of them play in the American League (Alex Bregman, Nelson Cruz, and Yordan Alvarez). Only Ketel Marte has been remotely close to as good among National Leaguers, and he’s five points of OPS+ behind Castellanos. The next closest is a pair of Cubs, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, who are 17 points of OPS+ back.