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Tigers’ Nicholas Castellanos is due to break out soon

It’s only a matter of time for the young third baseman.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is now the fourth full season in the majors for Nicholas Castellanos and it seems Detroit Tigers fans are still waiting for the eventual offensive breakout. He has shown flashes at times, but nothing too substantial for the former top prospect. In his injury-shortened 2016 season, Castellanos hit .285 with 18 home runs in 447 plate appearances. That is a home run about every 25 plate appearances. So far in this young season, he has three home runs in 144 plate appearances, or about one home run every 48 plate appearances.

Every year, Castellanos gets praise for his high line drive rate, and rightfully so. In his rookie year in 2014, Castellanos was second in the league with a 28.5 percent line drive rate. Last season, his 25.6 percent line drive percentage ranked 11th among players with at least 400 plate appearances. He is near the top again this year, at number six, with a 28.6 percent line drive rate.

However, there is something else that Castellanos is doing this year that should be warranting better results: his hard hit rate. While he was around 33-35 percent over the past few years, his hard hit rate has jumped to 52.8 percent in 2017, second in the league. However, his overall stats have regressed from last year, with a batting line of .248/.319/.442. Looking at the below graph, his dot sticks out.

There is a noticeable positive correlation between hard hit rate and slugging percentage (for you stat nerds, it is at .552 this year, which is pretty high when talking about baseball). According to the regression equation, Castellanos’ slugging percentage should be at .598 based on his hard hit rate, which is 156 points above his actual slugging percentage of .442.

Per Baseball Savant, Castellanos’ xwOBA (expected wOBA) is at .393, compared to his actual wOBA of .330 for a difference of .063. This difference is the fourth highest among hitters (minimum 100 at-bats), tied with Khris Davis and Melky Cabrera, making Castellanos one of the most unlucky hitters so far this year.

Nicholas Castellanos continues to show signs of improvement as a hitter, his latest being hard hit percentage. As frustrating as it is to hear about being patient with Castellanos awaiting his inevitable breakout, being patient is all we can do. All signs point to a breakout. Hopefully it comes sooner rather than later.