Nicholas Castellanos Signs with Cincinnati Reds: Fantasy Baseball Impact
The Reds are making win-now moves, and the latest might seem a bit odd at first blush. They’ve agreed to a four-year deal with Nicholas Castellanos, adding another quality hitter to their lineup. Castellanos is an outfielder (limited to playing the corner, too), though, and the Reds aren’t lacking on intriguing players in the outfield. The club signed NPB import Shogo Akiyama to a three-year deal earlier in the offseason, however, he profiles as a centerfielder. Kazuto Yamazaki wrote an outstanding scouting piece about Akiyama last October for Baseball Prospectus for those interested in learning a bit more about him. The Reds also have incumbents Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, and Phillip Ervin. No one from that quartet is a bona fide, established everyday player. Further, there’s platoon potential for them, and the depth provides the Reds some potential to deal from their sudden depth at the position. Regardless, this piece is about Castellanos, and he’ll be entrenched in the outfield as an everyday player.
Great American Ball Park
Prior to 2019, Castellanos spent his entire professional career with the Tigers before being traded to the Cubs just before the trade deadline last July. His new home ballpark, Great American Ball Park, will be the most homer-friendly park he’s called home to this point in his career. In fact, it’s one of the most homer-friendly parks in MLB with the fourth-highest park factor for homers overall (1.186) and sporting the fifth-highest park factor for right-handed homers (1.162). GABP also boosts run-scoring a bit with a park factor of 1.059 for runs. Although, that mark is a bit behind the park he called home for the majority of his career, Comerica Park (1.085 park factor for runs). Overall, calling his new bandbox, “Great American Small Park,” home should be a plus for Castellanos’ fantasy value.
Lineup Quality and Depth
The outfield depth highlighted in the intro is actually a plus for Castellanos since he’s not in jeopardy of losing meaningful playing time to anyone else. It’s possible the Reds deal from their jam-packed outfield, but, for now, the flexibility it provides them to platoon and mix and match for matchups provides a boost to the lineup. The infield received its own reinforcement in free agency with the addition of Mike Moustakas (113 wRC+ in 2019, per FanGraphs) and still includes stud Eugenio Suarez (133 wRC+). Veteran first baseman Joey Votto (101 wRC+) had his worst offensive season in his career, but he’s just a year removed from totaling a 130 wRC+ in 2018 and got on base at a .357 clip even in a down year.
Freddy Galvis (89 wRC+), Tucker Barnhart (81 wRC+), and the pitcher spot in the lineup aren’t going to strike fear into opposing pitchers, but the Reds have a lineup built to improve on last year’s rank of 25th in wRC+ (87). Also, Castellanos figures to call a top-five lineup spot home, putting him in close proximity to Cincinnati’s quality hitters and providing him ample run and RBI chances this season.
Castellanos played 151 games last year and totaled 664 plate appearances. It was his third-straight season of playing more than 150 games and besting 660 plate appearances. Since his rookie season in 2014, Castellanos has played at least 148 games in all but one year. Castellanos’ consistent availability is money in the bank for fantasy gamers.
Last year, he set new highs in homers (27) and runs (100), and he slashed .289/.337/.525 with a 6.2 BB% and 21.5 K%. He’s ripped 23 or more homers in three straight years, and only missed time (110 games and 447 plate appearances) kept him just short of 20 dingers with 18 in 2016. Over the last four years, his low batting average was .272 (2017) and high was .298 (2018). His walk and strikeout rates last year fall right in line with each of the prior two seasons, and his work last year is representative of his skill level.
Even if MLB returns to a pre-2019 ball that’s not as lively, Castellanos’ new home could help him make another run at the career-high 27 taters he mashed last season. In 2007 plate appearances since 2017, Castellanos has hit .287/.337/.505 with a 6.5 BB%, and 21.7 K%. I noted his 2019 slash above, but for ease of reference, he hit .289/.337/.525. In other words, last year wasn’t an outlier. According to his player page on FanGraphs, Steamer projects Castellanos to total 661 plate appearances and hit .275/.331/.490 with 27 homers, 88 runs, 90 RBIs, and three stolen bases.
The run production numbers feel fair, give or take some runs and/or RBIs depending on exactly where he slots in Cincinnati’s lineup. The homers and stolen bases look like fine projections as well. The average projection feels a bit light, though. The 27-year-old outfielder has hit .285 or better in three of his last four seasons, and, over the last three years, he boasts a dreamy batted ball profile that includes a 25.4 LD%, 37.9 FB%, 2.2 IFFB%, and 44.7 Hard%.
Castellanos presently has an ADP of 117.0, per our ADP data. Now that he officially has a home, he should start going off the board a little earlier. His work last year made him the 55th most valuable hitter, according to our value-based ranking. Circling back to ADP, he’s just the 77th hitter off the board, making him a steal at his current cost. He’s worthy of going off the board a couple of rounds earlier and pushing inside the top-100 players.