Nick Castellanos has not looked like Nick Castellanos this season. He put up a career year in 2021, when he slashed .309/.362/.576 over 138 games with the Cincinnati Reds. That might not have been sustainable, but after signing him to a five-year, $100 million contract in March, it’s safe to say the Phillies weren’t expecting the regression they have seen so far in 2022.
After going 0-for-3 on Sunday, Castellanos’ on-base-plus-slugging percentage dropped to .714, the lowest it’s been since his 2014 season. He’s hitting .194/.268/.222 for the month of June. Castellanos doesn’t have any answers for why this is happening. He said on Sunday he hasn’t felt “comfortable” all year, but he believes that could change quickly.
“It’s only a matter of time, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “It’s kind of one of those things that sometimes you go through phases where you don’t have a good feeling at the plate, at least for me. Honestly, sometimes all it takes is one swing and it clicks and starts rolling.”
When you dig into the numbers a little bit, a few trends emerge. First of all, Castellanos is not hitting fastballs as well as he used to. In 2021, he destroyed them, batting .376 with a .677 slugging percentage. This season, he’s batting .260 off fastballs, and his slugging percentage has dropped to .458.
That dip could be a significant contributor to his slump because those are the pitches he sees the most. Castellanos is also not feasting on mistake pitches the way he did in 2021. Per Sports Info Solutions, last season he saw 406 pitches thrown on the middle-third of the plate, and batted .429 on those pitches with a 1.271 OPS. Entering Sunday, he is batting .200 on those pitches, and slugging .333, which ranks in the bottom 15% of the league.
Why Castellanos is suddenly not crushing the pitches he once did is a bit of a mystery, one that interim manager Rob Thomson has yet to solve.
“I think he’s jumping a little bit,” Thomson said on Sunday. “But when you’re scuffling, you’re trying to do too much, I think that’s part of it, too. But he’s a really good hitter. You look at the back of his baseball card and he’s going to end up putting up some numbers by the end of the year, I’m very sure of that.”
The fact that Castellanos is being shifted on more in 2022 is also not helping him. Per Baseball Savant, Castellanos has already seen more shifts this season (175) than he did in all of 2021 (172). And he is not hitting well in those situations. In 2021, his weighted on-base average (wOBA) against the shift was .423; and in 2022, it is .299, his lowest mark since 2016, when Statcast began recording shift statistics.
It goes without saying that the Phillies need Castellanos to show up this season. A big reason they signed him in the first place was to provide some middle-of-the-order power behind Bryce Harper, and Castellanos has not been showing that power consistently. It’s hard to imagine him replicating what he did in 2021, but even a modicum of that production would go a long way.
“Sometimes baseball can be fun and games, and sometimes it can [expletive] suck,” Castellanos said. “That’s the honest truth of it.”