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2023 Phillies in review: Nick Castellanos

“I f*** with Philly.” The Nick Castellanos All-Star roller coaster

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
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In March of 2022, Nick Castellanos signed a five year deal with the Phillies worth $100 million. It came on the heels of Kyle Schwarber’s four year, $79 million deal. Both may have been influenced by Bryce Harper, who openly pressed for a couple of big bats to compliment the signing of J.T. Realmuto and Zack Wheeler.

The goal was to field a juggernaut of a team able to not just reach the postseason but to take it as deep into October as possible.

While Schwarber went on to hit more home runs than anyone else in the National League in 2022, Castellanos’s inaugural year in Philly was tarnished by poor plate appearances and subpar fielding. His inability to lay off swinging at every low and away slider earned him the ire of fans and commentators alike.

By 2023, Nick Castellanos was the sole position player representing the Phillies in the All-Star game.

Casty began his second season in pinstripes exhibiting much more plate discipline than his first. In 2022 he seemed almost a liability. Early this season, while the rest of the lineup struggled, he proved a vital offensive contributor. In the back half of the season there was some backslide, but he always remained a real threat at the plate.

2023 stats: 157 G, 671 PA, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 11 SB .272/.311/.476

The good

Looking past all the flapdoodle of trading Casty and Turner and the Walt Whitman Bridge for Mike Trout, Casty came through this season. He was a crucial part of this organization reaching the postseason and played a important role in steamrolling the Marlins and Braves. For anyone who watched, it was obvious why his OPS+ jumped to 112, up from 96 last season.

In April he slashed .308/.368/.505 with 17 RBI. In June he was .351/.387./.567 and 21 RBI.

I like to like our players as people, and Castellanos is easy to like. Between Scooby-Doo and “Is that a question?”, his idiosyncrasies offer amusement with a distinctly Philadelphian attitude. And while normally I’d refrain from discussing a player’s family, Casty’s very public relationship with his son Liam endeared him to anyone with a soul. For some of us, knowing that the players who represent your city are decent human beings and are actually likable is a big part of why we support the team. As our own John Stolnis discussed at length in an excellent episode of the Hittin’ Season podcast, vibes matter, no matter how hard you roll your eyes at me, Doug.

Related to that, this year he’s taken on somewhat of a leadership role in the clubhouse, taking Johan Rojas under his wing, acting as mentor and teaching him how to properly expose oneself to others while at work.

Defensively, he was an outfielder. His Statcast OAA improved to -7 in 2023 from -12 in 2022. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s grown into a capable outfielder.

Perhaps the most important aspect of his 2023 season, objectively speaking, was when he autographed a jersey for one of my daughters.

The bad

How many times have you watched Nick Castellanos lean over the plate and chase the same down and away slider? How many times did you yell at him through the TV, “Why do you keep falling for the same pitch over and over again?”

Recency bias and emotions color our perspective. It’s the plate appearances in the last two games of the NLCS that stick in our mind like an arrow through the head. Did the coaching staff instruct Castellanos and others to modify their aggressive approach at the plate to counter the adjustments made by Arizona pitching? If so, did Castellanos ignore it?

As Rob Thomson mentioned in his October 26th presser, the bats were chasing during the NLCS. Casty is the most obvious example of this, and, whether fair or not, he’s the target of a lot of frustration with the streaky offensive output of this team. When he loses his discipline at the plate and swings freely at pitches outside the zone, the irritation with him bleeds through the TV screen.

There were months when Nick Castellanos was on fire. And there were stretches when it felt like he couldn’t buy a hit.

In July, he slashed .162/.194/.303 with 11 RBI - the month after he hit .351 with 21 RBI.

Every players goes through hot and cold streaks, but Castellanos deals in extremes that are exasperating. He needs to learn consistency.

The future

With three years left on his contract and owed $60 million, Castellanos isn’t going anywhere. Based on his history with previous clubs and the progress he’s made over two seasons with the Phillies, there’s a good chance that his performance will level out. His lowest lows should become more infrequent, and hopefully not at the expense of his highest highs.

Nick Castellanos was signed to the Phillies to help power them through to the postseason. In 2023, he demonstrated he’s the guy for that job. He’ll likely continue to contribute to the offensive power of this team for years to come.

Edit (11/9/23 12:14 PM)

Of course, immediately after this article was published, we saw this:

While it’s doubtful the Phillies will trade Castellanos this off-season, the “years to come” might morph into “months to come.”