A look at Castellanos’ struggles from one of the people who know him best originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Few people in baseball are more familiar with Nick Castellanos and his game than Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies president of baseball operations who ran things in Detroit when the Tigers drafted the 18-year-old Castellanos 44th overall in 2010 .
Dombrowski watched Castellanos grow from a below-average everyday third baseman in 2014 and 2015 to one of the best hitters in baseball over the next six seasons.
In his first two full seasons, 2014 and 2015, Castellanos hit .257/.304/.407 with 32 doubles and 13 homers.
Castellanos then hit .286/.338/.515 with an average of 36 doubles and 24 homers from 2016-2021.
This season, his first with the Phillies after signing a five-year, $100 million contract, has felt more like those early years. Castellanos’ batting average is 32 points lower than his career mark this season and his OPS is 158 points lower. He has hit one home run over his last 202 games with a .263 slugging percentage.
Based on WAR, which takes into account defense and on-base, Castellanos has been the worst everyday player in the majors this season. It was shocking.
Worse, there was little sign that he would be able to break out of it, at least not much beyond the “water finds its level” cliché. The main hole in his swing/approach has been there all season – he regularly gets attacked on the lower outside corner with breaking balls and has trouble putting them away. It’s a pitch that he and most hitters are rarely able to handle, and he’s struck out nearly half of the low-and-away balls he’s seen this season.
He doesn’t shout mistakes either. He will get a 95 mph fastball that will grab too much of the plate and backfire.
For three months, Castellanos basically went 1 for 4 every night with a single, no walks and a strikeout.
“I wish I really knew the answer, because if I did I would be in the middle of trying to fix everything that goes with it,” Dombrowski said Monday when asked about Castellanos’ struggles.
“I’m in the group. I know Nick Castellanos. He’s not hitting like he’s capable of. He’s the first one to say that. I don’t really know. Maybe he’s putting too much pressure on himself. I know he hardworking. He’s very aware of what he’s trying to produce for us and disappointing people. I don’t know if it makes him do too much.
“He always expanded the strike zone. Now he’s expanding her more than I’ve ever seen him expand her. But he’s a guy who usually hits all over the field. he will lose this ability.’
The Phillies desperately need Castellanos’ bat in the final two months of the regular season. Looking at the areas they can upgrade offensively at the trade deadline, the Phils are limited by the commitments they’ve already made at most positions, including right field.
It’s not that Castellanos was exhausted. He hit .300 in April and had a .906 OPS through May 10. He has enough performances and big games to change the narrative of his first season in Philly.
“I really don’t know. I would like to know,” Dombrovsky said. “If it was a lack of work, it would be very easy to say. It’s not that. He works very hard. He is focused on doing better. I hope we can do it. My experience is that when you sign talented guys, they usually end up with stats on the back of a bubblegum card. And that usually means a hot streak is coming. Let’s hope it happens.”