Through Nick and Thin

Breaking down the best hitting performances from Monday's games.

Nick Castellanos (PHI): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Nick Castellanos was riding high this winter, signing a five-year, $100-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

After putting up the best numbers of his career in 2021 – a .939 OPS with 34 home runs – it seemed pretty safe to expect a repeat performance from the new Phillie as he joined one of baseball’s most fearsome lineups alongside Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto.

Things don’t always go according to plan though, and the Phillies have learned that the hard way. Entering play on Monday, Castellanos’ down year at the dish had led him to produce just a .697 OPS with 11 home runs in 120 games. The offensive downturn across the league has hurt every hitter, but not to the degree of seeing your OPS fall nearly 250 points!

Despite the massive dip in performance, it seems that Castellanos may finally be turning things around. He finished Monday with a 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI line as the Phillies took down the Reds 4-1. Castellanos opened the scoring with a solo home run against Cincinnati starter Luis Cessa in the second inning, blasting a hanging slider 436 feet to centerfield – it was the second-furthest hit ball of the day.

Yesterday’s two-hit performance raised Castellanos’ hitting streak to 12 games. Since the calendar flipped to August, Castellanos is hitting a much more normal looking .320/.363/.533 with four home runs.

Hopefully this late-season surge can last another six weeks. If it does, he’ll deliver a huge boost to the Phillies as they fight for a playoff spot, and fantasy managers who have patiently waited for the former All-Star to get back to his old ways.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Michael Harris II (ATL): 1-1, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

Harris’ remarkable year continued last night, as he took fellow rookie Roansy Contreras deep in the fifth inning of the Braves’ 2-1 win in Pittsburgh. After last night’s performance, Harris is up to 13 home runs with 15 stolen bases to go along with a sterling .286/.328/.505 slash line. Harris is somehow still available in a decent amount of fantasy leagues – 19% of Yahoo! and 30% of ESPN. If you need outfield help, he should be a big boon. The only real knock on him is that he’s stuck in the bottom third of Atlanta’s batting order.

Randy Arozarena (TB): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.

The Rays aren’t cruising through the AL East like they did last year, but they are still in the thick of the AL Wild Card race thanks to performances like the one they got from Arozarena last night. The 27-year-old left fielder got the better of a Tucker Davidson fastball in the fifth inning, hitting the decisive home run in the Rays’ 2-1 win over the Angels. Arozarena is one of Tampa Bay’s only true everyday players, and he’s on pace to wrap up the 2022 season with 20+ home runs and 25+ steals. He’s even cut his strikeout rate this year over three percentage points, down to 24.5%.

Aaron Judge (NYY): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

The Bronx Bombers haven’t been very explosive lately, so a date with Max Scherzer last night surely wasn’t what they wanted to see on the schedule. Thankfully for the Yankees, they have Aaron Judge on their team, and he can square up a pitch no matter who’s throwing it, and that’s exactly what he did. He had three hard hits against Scherzer, including a third-inning home run and seventh-inning single. Judge’s big fly was his 47th of the season. The Yankees won the first game of the Subway Series by a score of 4-2.

José Abreu (CWS): 3-3, 2 R, 2 BB.

The real story of yesterday’s White Sox game was Michael Kopech appearing injured prior to the first pitch, still being left in to start, having significantly lowered velocity, and not being able to record a single out. That story just slightly overshadowed Abreu’s perfect day at the plate. He reached base in all five plate appearances, raising his season batting line to .313/.389/.468. Is there a more consistent hitter in baseball over the past decade? It’s sure hard to think of one. Despite Abreu’s best efforts, the Royals bested the White Sox 6-4.

Albert Pujols (STL): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

The man just can’t be stopped! Pujols belted the 693rd home run of his career in the seventh inning off of an elevated Drew Smyly sinker. It proved to be the deciding blow in the Cardinals’ 1-0 win in Wrigley, the team’s eighth victory in a row. If it seems like Pujols has been on an absolute rampage lately, it’s because he has. As Jeremy Frank noted on Twitter, Pujols’ 1.300 slugging percentage over his last 10 games is the best 10-game stretch of his career. Only seven more homers to go.

Oneil Cruz (PIT): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.

The Pirates’ lone run in last night’s ballgame came off of Cruz’s bat. Jake Odorizzi left a curveball middle-middle, and that’s not something you want to do against any hitter, let alone someone with the raw power that Cruz possesses. Unfortunately, Cruz’s elite athleticism and skill set haven’t translated to major league success just yet. Through 201 plate appearances this season, his slash line is a lowly .198/.249/.401. He has the tools to be a star, but at this point, it may not happen until 2023.

Charles Leblanc (MIA): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

Leblanc hit the second home run of his career last night, a 409-foot blast with a 109 mph exit velocity which is now the hardest hit ball of his young career. After Monday night’s showing in the Marlins’ 3-0 win in Oakland, Leblanc’s early career numbers look promising – .322/.344/.492 with two home runs and three stolen bases over 61 plate appearances  – but digging a little deeper shows it may not be sustainable. Most importantly, Leblanc is running a .395 BABIP right now. While he did have a .396 BABIP in 360 Triple-A plate appearances this year, don’t think it’ll continue. Since 2010, just five hitters have finished an MLB season with a BABIP of at least .395. If you want to take a shot on this run continuing in a fantasy league, feel free to go for it. It’s hard to find exciting pick-ups at this point in the season, but regression will come at some point, whether it’s in the next six weeks or not remains to be seen.

Adolis García (TEX): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

García’s been one of my favorite incremental improvers this year, so I get excited every time I see his name come up in Monday’s box scores. Last night, he absolutely destroyed a baseball, hitting the longest home run of the night – a 456-foot missile to left-centerfield against Sonny Gray as the Rangers won 2-1 in Minnesota. On the year, García’s up to 20 home runs, 19 steals, and a .253/.300/.450 triple slash line. Where he’s improved is his plate discipline, dropping his strikeout rate from 31.2% to 28% and raising his walk rate ever-so-slightly from 5.1% to 5.8%. Small improvements, yes, but overall his wRC+ has increased from 99 in 2021 to 112 in 2022.

Elvis Andrus (CWS): 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI.

It’s no secret that at this point of his career, the bulk of Andrus’ value comes in the field and from his veteran clubhouse presence. After two straight seasons of an OPS below .700 in Oakland, the A’s cut bait with Andrus just a few days ago. Yesterday marked his third game with the White Sox, and in that incredibly small sample, he’s 3-for-12. Andrus will likely be the regular shortstop on the South Side for the next few weeks until Tim Anderson returns from his hand surgery.

Nick Gordon (MIN): 2-4, 2B, RBI.

Gordon’s seemingly flying under the radar this year, despite massive improvements to his batted ball profile. In his sophomore season, Gordon’s raised his barrel rate (6.8% to 11.5%), average launch angle (9.4 degrees to 13 degrees), max exit velocity (109.2 mph to 110.7 mph), and even lowered his strikeout rate (25.5% to 23.2%). Through 289 plate appearances this year, Gordon’s slashing .277/.321/.423 with five home runs and six stolen bases, good for a 114 wRC+. Perhaps most intriguingly, Statcast estimates that his power should be much higher; his xSLG of .492 is in the top 10% of hitters. Gordon’s already flashing the tools to be a double-digit home run and stolen base threat, but his underlying metrics point to even greater potential.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from every fantasy league format you can imagine to the unending greatness of Mike Trout. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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