Thursday, February 7, 2019

The curious case of Nicholas Castellanos

So in my first purchase of 2019 Topps Baseball, I was rewarded with several cards of my favorite team, including a brand new edition of the leading hitter on the team in 2018. Nicholas Castellanos pretty much carried my team's offense, such as it was, hitting 23 Home Runs and generating a .298/.354/.500 slash line. No other Tiger had AB qualifying #s within even 30 points of those decimals - things are that bad in Detroit right now.

But wait, what is he doing on this card? Our best hitter must be good in the field, then, too?

Nope. Nicholas Castellanos finished dead last in the rankings for Defensive Wins Above Replacement, or dWAR, for 2019, with a -2.4 score. 

What felt a little odd to me about the card was thinking about the last Nicholas Castellanos card I had seen, just a few weeks ago when I sorted out what all was happening with Topps and the Tigers and 2018.
Which in turn reminded me of another 2018 card in those cheap sets I collect -
Huh. 2 Fielding cards in 2018 - maybe he was good in the field back in 2017. Nope. -1.9 dWAR that year.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought I had seen Nick on a Topps Baseball card with a glove in hand, before...
Maybe when he played in in the infield in 2016, he had a better rep with the leather? Nope. -0.9 dWAR for 2016 at the Hot Corner.

And still I was trying to remember a Castellanos baseball card with a baseball bat on it. Maybe in 2016 Topps Baseball?
Nope. A little better mark for 2015 though, with only a -0.7 dWAR.

When Castellanos was in the Tigers minor league system, the most common descriptor for him was that he "rakes." Now, we are not going to see a rake on a baseball card, though it would be an amusing way to spotlight slugging prospects, somehow. Surely his youngest cards have a bat on one?
Sweet! A Topps All-Rookie Cup selection! There is the Tigers exciting new Third Sacker, In Action in his Rookie year! He must have been great with the glove that year! 

Nope. -2.7 dWAR in his first full season in the majors - & only a .700 OPS - pickings must have been a little slim for Rookie 3B'ers in 2014.

Ahh well, I do recall how excited everyone was to see Nick come to the plate for the first time for the 2013 Tigers - maybe his Rookie Card would show us that:
Ahh, he was still blocked from playing his "natural" position of Third Base that year, by some guy named Miguel Cabrera. But a Rookie with a glove on his Rookie Card, he must have started out well out there in the Outfield? 

Nope. -0.1 dWAR in the field during his "cup of coffee" appearance in September, 2013, in all of 9 games. dWAR is a bit of a counting stat, so it would be hard to move a needle on it in only 9 games. But still, the needle slipped into the negative.

Now, to be fair, I did finally find a Nicholas Castellanos card with a baseball bat on it, though it took until 2018:
I don't know what possessed Topps to relent on all those fielding cards by creating a unique Chrome card here, rather than just repeating the S1/S2 card as would normally happen. It is a nice card though, featuring a Spring Training uniform, like a lot of 2018 cards do.

And Topps has otherwise treated Castellanos very well lately, with several photo variation cards over the years, including a brand new one in 2019 Topps. And they also possibly gave him an extremely large compliment by making him card #3 in the Living Set, making him somewhat immortal, really, on baseball cards. But then they did have to pick 2 cards to issue with Aaron Judge while also illustrating to everyone that the Living Set would include everyday players, too, so one could consider that a bit of a back-handed compliment, perhaps. That card sure bums me out, because I would like to own one, and even though some 3,639 copies exist, it still sells for > $100, regularly, and probably will, for quite a while to come. So that will probably never happen, for me.

Ahh well. At least I can't pull any more cards showing Victor Martinez trying to run the bases. 

And maybe this explains something for the Tigers, who desperately need more, more, more prospects for hope for the future, much more than they need the final year of Nicholas Castellanos' contract with them. The whole situation is getting pretty ugly - Castellanos is now basically asking to be traded ASAP, but the Tigers are in a tough spot on this. After all, there are only 14 other spots for a Designated Hitter in the American League. So maybe, the Tigers just aren't getting any phone calls on this - because all the other GMs collect baseball cards, too, and they just can't forget that glove, either.

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