Potential 2018 Brave: Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos 3B/OF

Current Team: Detroit Tigers

Current Contract: 2 arbitration years remain of team control. Currently making $3M in 2017.

Current 2017 stats: .265/.317/.476 with 22 HR and a 105 wRC+

2018 Age: 26

The Player: Castellanos broke in with the Tigers in late 2013 and has been their everyday 3B since the 2014 season. His power numbers have steadily improved each season with 2017 being no different, as he’s currently at a career-best 22 HR entering today. His batted ball profile suggests Castellanos could be on the verge of a breakout type season. From 2013-2016, Castellanos had a hard-hit rate of 33.8%, however his 2017 season has seen that rate jump to 43.6%. Even though Castellanos is hitting the ball harder than ever, his career-worst .310 BABIP has kept his numbers right around his career slash line (.265/.313/.442). If his 2017 BABIP had been closer to his career .329 BABIP, he may have been looking at a career year. His walk rate has always hovered around 6%, so Castellanos’ OBP relies heavily on his average and BABIP.

Why it would work: Two months ago, the Tigers worked out a deal that sent catcher Alex Avila and reliever Justin Wilson to the Cubs in exchange for 3B Jeimer Candelario and SS Isaac Paredes. It wasn’t a massive blockbuster deal, but including Candelario was very noteworthy. Candelario was the top 3B in the Cubs’ minor league system, but he was clearly blocked by Kris Bryant. With Candelario joining the Tigers active roster in September, the Tigers decided to shift Castellanos to the outfield, a place he hasn’t appeared since 2013. With the Tigers willing to try a younger player at third, they may be open to trading Castellanos during the offseason. Castellanos could provide the Braves with a useful stop gap until prospect Austin Riley proves he’s ready, or they could move Castellanos to the outfield to join Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna (should the rumors of trying to move Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis come true).

Why it won’t work: With the Tigers recently trading both Justin Upton and JD Martinez, they may be relying on Castellanos to be mainstay at a corner outfield spot for the next two seasons. He’s settled in nicely over the last two months (.298/.323/.544; 123 wRC+ since July 17), so the Tigers may feel like he could continue to build value in 2018 and make a trade sometime next year. 

Conclusion: Castellanos would provide the Braves with another right handed power bat to join the middle of the order (which could prove very important should Kemp be traded). He’s unlikely to be overly expensive during the arbitration process over the next two seasons, so he could be a smart investment. Atlanta could utilize him at third in 2018, and potentially shift him to the outfield in 2019 if Riley is ready by then. His below average defense at third tends to drag down his fWAR (1.8 in ’16, 1.5 in ’17), but it should be noted his UZR/150 (currently -8.7) has showed steady improvement each year since reaching Detroit.

 

 

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