Examining A Possible Nicholas Castellanos, Chicago Cubs Fit

Nicholas Castellanos
KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 14: Nicholas Castellanos #9 of the Detroit Tigers hits against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on July 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

According to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, the Chicago Cubs are interested in exploring a trade for Detroit Tigers right fielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs currently own a 54-44 record and sit three games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite the success, this team isn’t perfect and needs one or two extra pieces to go over the top. Let’s break down what the Cubs see in Nicholas Castellanos and how the Cubs could use him in the second half of the season.

How Nicholas Castellanos Could Fit With Chicago Cubs

The Detroit Tigers are largely a dumpster fire, but Nicholas Castellanos is quietly having a solid season. The right fielder has appeared in 92 games so far, recording a .280/.339/.467 slash line with a corresponding 111 wRC+. This means that he’s 11% better than the league-average hitter, which is obviously a good thing for Chicago’s lineup.

When looking at his underlying numbers, Castellanos should be able to maintain this success throughout the remainder of the season. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is currently .338, which lines up well with his career .333 BABIP. BABIP is largely driven by luck, and the fact that his 2019 BABIP is only five points off from his career suggests he hasn’t been getting lucky.

Additionally, Castellanos has solid strikeout and walk numbers. So far this season, Castellanos has walked on 7.7% of his plate appearances while striking out 21.0% of the time. These numbers aren’t anything extraordinary, but they’re adequate.

Castellanos is a gifted hitter capable of spraying the ball to all portions of the field. According to Fangraphs, Castellanos pulls the ball 40.4% of the time, goes to center 30.2% of the time, and hits it the opposite way 29.5% of the time. Additionally, he hits the ball well, as evidenced by his 42.1% hard contact rate and 44.2% medium contact rate.

Castellanos doesn’t bring much as a defender, but his bat easily makes up for his subpar glove. All in all, it adds up to a respectable 1.2 fWAR during his time on the field.

Fitting the Cubs Needs

It’s no secret that the Chicago Cubs could use another body in the outfield. According to Baseball Reference, the Cubs have a combined 3.1 bWAR among outfielders, good for 17th in the league. Jason Heyward is looking like his old self, posting a .277/.359/.472 slash line with a 114 wRC+ in 91 games. However, the rest of the outfield leaves a lot to be desired.

Kyle Schwarber has been remarkably unremarkable, posting a .229/.322/.477 slash line with a 102 wRC+ in 379 plate appearances. He hasn’t been a liability, but he can certainly be upgraded. Albert Almora Jr., meanwhile, has been a problem. The center fielder currently owns a .242/.278/.388 slash line with a 69 wRC+ though 292 plate appearances. His defense keeps him in the lineup, but his subpar hit tool doesn’t cancel out his defensive acumen.

If the Cubs trade for Castellanos, they’ll likely move Heyward to center and shift Almora to the bench. Heyward is far from the ideal defensive center fielder, but he’s easily the best bat in the Cubs outfield. Castellanos would continue to play right field while Schwarber holds down left. In late-inning situations, the Cubs could always have Almora come in as a defensive replacement.

Just like that, the Cubs would have three above-average hitters in the outfield. Trading for Castellanos would allow Chicago to fill their biggest need and the clear-cut favorites for the NL Central crown. This move on its own won’t make them the best team in baseball, but they have the talent to beat the Dodgers in a seven-game series. Additionally, Castellanos probably wouldn’t cost much from a prospect standpoint, since he’s an impending free agent. All in all, this trade would make perfect sense for the Cubs.

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