Last year, Nick Castellanos continued his gradual productivity progression, posting an .831 OPS with 18 dingers in just 105 games. A broken hand cost him nearly two months, and he came back to a few games at 2016’s end. But we’ve forgotten about what he did for our fantasy baseball teams last year. In 2016, he hit .285/.331/.496 with 18 dingers, 54 runs and 58 RBI in just 110 games.
With fantasy baseball being a game of “what have you done for me lately,” the fantasy community is abandoning Castellanos. His fantasypros average draft position is 245.8, the #22 third baseman off the board. He is behind young upstarts like Alex Bregman and Miguel Sano, who we hope will develop into something great. We’ve forgotten that Castellanos is not too far off being a young upstart himself. Despite three full seasons in the majors, Castellanos is just 15 months older than Sano. He is barely two years older than Bregman. At 25, Castellanos is still on the come-up, but we have decided that he is not a sexy enough fantasy baseball commodity to take seriously.
Castellanos has made continuous, gradual improvements each of his years in the majors. While his strikeout and walk rates have stayed eerily consistent, his average and ISO have climbed each year in the majors. While an elevated BABIP can explain the average, it cannot explain the power. What can explain the power is the delightfully low soft-hit rate; he isn’t hitting tappers out there. Harder hit balls lead to better BABIP, and with it, a better average. He also hit fewer ground balls last year, and distributed those among his line drives and fly balls. While he would ideally hit fewer fly balls and more line drives, the increase in hard hit rate explains why more of those fly balls went over the fence than ever before. He’s getting gradually better, and there isn’t anything to suggest that what he’s doing is fluky.
While Castellanos will never have a truly high batting average due to his poor plate discipline, his massive power needs more respect. Each year in the majors, Castellanos showed gradual improvement. Pair that with his prospective move to #2 in the lineup ahead of Miguel Cabrera (which will give him plenty to hit) and Castellanos should have himself a nice little season.
While Castellanos won’t have a massive 2017 campaign, it is not fair to abandon him entirely. He’s settling into being a $1 CI option on a studs and duds approach. That’s fine, but he will likely produce enough quality at bats in a potent Tigers lineup to warrant a late-round pick or a super punt play at third. He isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he warrants going higher than he is.