To say the 2022 season was a disappointment for Nick Castellanos is an understatement. But this story actually starts at the end of 2021. Baseball was locked out, and Nick was coming off his career-best season in Cincinnati, hitting a career-high 34 home runs, an OPS of .939, and was voted to his first MLB All-Star Game. With an unusual offseason due to the lockout, Nick found himself still unsigned as teams reported to spring training after the 99-day lockout. Eventually, on March 22nd, Nick signed with Philadelphia, reuniting with Dave Dombrowski, who originally drafted him in Detroit back in 2010. Philadelphia fans were ecstatic with the new signing, as the Phillies would now have a lineup that boasted Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and now Nick Castellanos. Casty and Schwarber were expected to platoon as outfielders and the newly added DH, one of the new rules from the recent lockout.
Nick reported to camp immediately and worked as quickly as possible to get acclimated to his new team, environment, and life in Philadelphia while speeding to get ramped up for the new season that started in just under 3 weeks. Not only did Nick have to find a new place to live and meet new teammates, coaches, and team officials, but he was also expecting his 2nd child within weeks of opening day. The fact that Nick struggled in this type of environment should’ve been expected when you look back, as we forget these players are, in fact, humans. But when you are given a 5-year, $100 million contract in a win-now mode, struggling is unacceptable to the fans.
And as we fans saw, Nick had a career-worst season. Wrapping up the 2022 regular season, Nick Castellanos slashed a .263 average with a .305 OBP and a .694 OPS, almost 250 points lower than his previous season. Not only that, Castellanos, not known for being a solid fielder and who was signed with the intention of being a platoon outfielder and DH, was forced to play right field every day when Harper tore his UCL, finished the season with -8 defensive runs saved and -12 outs above average. In the entire MLB, Nick actually finished 2nd worst in baseball with a -.8WAR. Although Nick made some great plays in the field in the postseason, his bat still didn’t really show up, finishing the playoffs with a .478 OPS. Nick took some time off in the offseason to get acclimated to his new city, new home in Moorestown, NJ (He purchased Ben Simmons’ old place), and new life as a dad to his second child, working with Kevin Long to get his hitting and mind right. All this to say, it took Nick about a year to get his head right and back to where he knows he should be and where he is now.
Nick has started out the 2023 campaign on an absolute tear. As of today, 5/11, Nick is batting .322 with a .370 average, a .894 OPS, 2nd on the team in homers with 5, and 2nd on the team in RBIs with 24. Not only do we see the Castellanos that the Phillies dished out $ 100 million to, but it is clear that Nick has his swagger back. He’s clearly having fun with this team, acting as a leader should. He’s making diving plays in the field; he’s crushing doubles, currently 2nd in the MLB, and reigniting his old nickname, Nicky Two Bags.
Nick was asked about his comfort at the plate recently after a game and was quoted saying:
“There’s no question; I mean, even if you go back to all my interviews last year, I always say with me that everything is connected. The more that I feel at peace with myself … my situation … my surroundings … my environment, the more that my natural self is going to be able to come through.”
After hitting his 5th homerun on the season on Tuesday, Nick found his son Liam behind the batters box, running over and giving him a fist bump through the netting.
Nick was recently asked if he was feeling more like himself in his 2nd year in Philadelphia or if it was just a matter of time passing and getting his head right. “I would say time is No. 1. As much as I want to be 100% comfortable in my surroundings immediately at all times, I struggle with that. But I feel good now; I’ll tell you that,” Castellanos said with a smile.
Keep on smiling and driving the ball, Nick, Philadelphia needs you.