FanPost

The Curious Case of Nick Castellanos

Brian Kersey

Nick Castellanos, the highly thought of rookie third basemen, has had a rough start to his pro career. In 36 games (143 PA) Nick has shown competence at third base (-4 Defensive Runs saved but 1.4 UZR) but has looked slightly overmatched at the plate. He began the season well by reaching base in each of his first 6 games, but overall he has posted a .244/.266/.385 slash line with a 74 wRC+ and .283 wOBA. Out of all eligible 3rd basemen, those stats all rank near the bottom of the leaderboard.

So the question needs to be asked, what's wrong with Nick Castellanos?

To begin, I looked at Castellanos's batted ball stats. That should be able to give some sort of clue, right?

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB%

IFH%

30.4%

30.4%

39.2%

2.5%

10.0%

9.7%

Compare this to the MLB averages...

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB%

IFH%

20.2%

45.5%

34.3%

9.7%

10.1%

6.4%

Well, that doesn't help much to explain his struggles. For those of you unfamiliar with batted ball rates, line drives result in the highest average and are the type of hits hitters should be desiring for, while grounders and fly balls result in averages that are very close and substantially lower. Let's look at the results of each type of hit by Nick:

AVG

OBP

SLG

BABIP

wOBA

wRC+

GB

.161

.161

.161

.161

.144

-23

FB

.158

.150

.526

.056

.275

68

LD

.733

.710

.900

.710

.695

358

Now, just like earlier, the MLB average:

AVG

OBP

SLG

BABIP

wOBA

wRC+

GB

.235

.235

.255

.235

.217

30

FB

.221

.216

.624

.131

.349

121

LD

.699

.692

.902

.690

.695

359

Well well, what do we have here. Aside from on line drives, (which are slightly above league average) Castellanos has underperformed very much on his batted balls. The averages on both ground balls and fly balls are about .07-.08 points lower than league average, which is a substantial amount. Coincidentally (or maybe not since we know the balls are in play) Nick's BABIP on each of those type of hits are .07-.08 points lower than league average as well.

Does that explain all of his struggles? Well, no. He's not the fleetest of foot, so it's not a surprise that his BABIP on ground balls is a bit lower than the MLB average. Slower players will beat out less ground balls than faster players. He's likely due some positive regression there, but hitting more ground balls isn't the answer to his problems. Flyballs, meanwhile, tend to produce the lowest average overall of the three most common types of hits, so that won't necessarily solve all of his problems either.

I think it's fair to say that, while Nick likely should see more of his pitches he contacts with fall for hits, that's not the ultimate reason why he is struggling. So I looked at his Fangraphs page once again and looked at another area that should at least give us some clues as to where his problem lies. That area is his swing % stats.

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

39.9%

81.1%

59.3%

50.9%

79.2%

69.2%

47.3%

60.1%

18.0%

Once more, we'll compare that to the MLB average:

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

29.3%

65.0%

45.9%

64.7%

86.9%

79.3%

46.5%

60.0%

9.2%

Now here are some numbers that can help us solve this mystery. Castellanos is much more aggressive of a hitter than the average MLBer, swinging at almost 14% more pitches. Since he's as aggressive as he is, it would seem logical to think that he would have lower walk and strikeout rates and a higher total of balls hit in play. In theory, he's not working the count long enough to draw a walk or strike out. However, when we look at his K%, we see an (at least to me) astonishing percentage of 25.2%. Out of 174 qualified batters, that ranks as the 32nd highest. How could this be?

To answer that question, let's refer back to the table I posted above. We've already established he's one of the more aggressive hitters this year. However, compared to those same 174 qualified players, he's been one of the worst at making contact. Of those 174, he has the 12th worst Contact%, better than only the likes of Mark Reynolds, Chris Carter, Ryan Howard, and a few other whifftastic hitters. When we look at his Swinging Strike % (SwStr%) he actually tops the list. So while Nick may be swinging a lot, he's not doing a lot with the ball when he does swing. Of the 30 worst qualified hitters in Contact%, nobody has a higher Swing% and only 2 are within 5% of him.

So what should Nick do? I'd suggest being at least a little more selective. A 2.8 BB% is absolutely horrible, and if he's missing as many pitches out of the zone as he is, taking more pitches may put him in more favorable counts to get pitches that he can actually drive. His pedigree of a minor leaguer was that of one with a solid eye and good contact skills, so maybe he has just been pressing in trying to live up to his starting spot. It's not early anymore where there shouldn't be some worry, but I have to think some adjustments will be made to counter his free swinging ways. Because the Tigers have been playing so well they haven't needed much from Nick as of yet, but if he keeps hitting the way he has been that will result in two black holes in the lineup instead of just the problem at SS.

Do I think he'll improve? Yes, but probably not as much as everyone is hoping for. His ZiPS and Steamer projections for the rest of the year are a bit better than what he's doing currently (101 wRC+ by ZiPS, 92 by Steamer) but he'll need to make some serious adjustments at the plate for that to happen. I know he has a reputation as a slow starter at every level he's been at, and he still is young, so I'll give him some benefit of the doubt for now. Should these struggles continue into July, though, and we may need to think about addressing a short term improvement at third.

To sum up what is already a long winded fanpost, what does the BYB community expect for Castellanos for the rest of 2013 now that there's somewhat of a sample on him?

Note: All stats are before the 5/22 game against Texas and are provided by Fangraphs.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.

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