Plate discipline is an unheralded casualty of this new era of depressed offense. There have been 19 players with a .15-to-1 walk-to-strikeout rate or worse in a qualified season since the end of the dead ball era in 1920, and there are 11 players on that pace so far this season. Increasingly, that leaves fantasy owners stuck with sub-.300 on base players and their correspondingly low batting averages and runs totals in even moderately deep formats.
Nick Castellanos is buried among several low on-base options outside of the top 15 in consensus third base rankings. And Castellanos does not have the power potential of a Matt Dominguez or Will Middlebrooks to help offset his dreadful .256 OBP. He seems like an easy player to drop in order to pick up a hot third base bat like Chase Headley or Mike Olt, and while there is little risk in doing so when the waiver wire has those sorts of available players, I do expect Castellanos to improve.
Without much power or speed to speak of, Castellanos’ .268 BABIP does not scream regression the way it would for more toolsy players. However, Castellanos has demonstrated one elite tool so far, and that should drive an increase in his BABIP going forward.
|Highest Line Drive Rate, 2014|
Castellanos is second among qualified hitters with a 32.6 percent line drive rate. He’s also the only member of the top 10 of that category with a BABIP below .322, and his is 54 points lower. And few of the other leaders stand out in terms of power or speed. Freddie Freeman is the only member with more than five home runs, and Angel Pagan is the only one with more than one stolen base.
Despite the obvious similarities, Castellanos has a profile radically different than most of the names on the list when you include his strikeout and walk rates. Amazingly, Castellanos has 30 strikeouts against only four walks so far this season. Eight of the nine other line drive rate leaders have a walk-to-strikeout rate at least twice that of Castellanos (.13-to-1), but Chris Johnson has a similar .11-to-1 ratio. And, in fact, Johnson is on his way to his third consecutive season with a walk rate of six percent or lower and a line drive rate of 25 percent or higher, which is more than a tenth of such similar seasons to what Castellanos is on pace for this year.
|Paul Lo Duca||2003||7.0%||8.6%||26.5%||.291||.273||.335||.377|
Throw in the similarity in strikeout rate (20 percent-plus), and Johnson provides nearly half of the most similar seasons to Castellanos, joining the 2014 efforts of Marlon Byrd, Matt Adams, David Wright, and Khris Davis.
Of course, Castellanos’ potential following in the footsteps of Johnson only matters if Johnson is a fantasy asset, and, really, Johnson’s BABIP-aided 2013 season that featured a .321 batting average seems to be a one-time deal. However, even if Castellanos’ true talent is as a .280 hitter with 20 home runs per season, that is valuable at a position that declines quickly after an elite top five of Cabrera, Beltre, Wright, Longoria, and Donaldson. Expect a .280-15-55-60 line the rest of the way, which should have him closer to the top 10 at the position than outside the top 25.
Scott Spratt is a fantasy sports writer for FanGraphs and Pro Football Focus. He is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @Scott_Spratt