Finding a Match for Nicholas Castellanos: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and New York Mets

DETROIT, MI – JULY 28: Nicholas Castellanos #9 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning at Comerica Park on July 28, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

The expectation is that Tigers slugger Nicholas Castellanos will be wearing a different jersey come Spring Training. This past season was a very good one for the 26-year-old, who was converted from a 3B to a RF. He was worth 3.0 WAR despite recording a -19 DRS in his first year in the outfield. While that accentuates his defensive deficiencies, it also highlights how good of a hitter Castellanos truly is.

He had a .298 AVG and .354 OBP, along with 23 dingers. He managed to stay on the field, only missing 5 games all season. A 3 win player who is a greater hitter but a terrible fielder is still a 3 win player, and players of that caliber carry substantial value. Castellanos is projected to earn $11.3 million in his final season of arbitration and is a free agent after next season (only 1 yr of control remaining); as a result, the Tigers are looking to deal him for prospects to hopefully accelerate the rebuilding process. 

Castellanos is projected to be worth 1.9 WAR this upcoming season, per Steamer. This investigation will be conducted under the following condition:

1 WAR = $9 million

Based on this conversion, Castellanos would be worth $17.1 million ($9 million * 1.9 WAR). Then, you must subtract the cost of his contract…

$17.1 million – $11.3 million = $5.8 million in surplus value. 

Fangraphs assigned dollar values for all the prospects in the minor leagues. Anothony Banda, whom they rank as the 131st best prospect in baseball, is valued at $8 million. If the Rays were to flip him for Castellanos, it would be deemed an overpay by the Rays (a steal for the Tigers) because Castellanos’ $5.8 million surplus value (for the purpose of this investigation, it will be approximated to $6 million) is less than the future value ($8 million) Banda is expected to accrue over the course of his contract. The lower tiered prospects are presumably on the table for Castellanos though:

45+ (on the 20-80 scouting scale) pitcher = $6 million

45 position player (hitter) = $6 million

45 pitcher = $4 million

40+ position player = $4 million

40+ pitcher = $3 million 

40 position player = $2 million

40 pitcher = $1 million

Here are the all the possible prospects combinations for a Castellanos deal:

  • 45+ position player or 45+ pitcher
  • (45 pitcher or 40+ position player) and (40 position player or two 40 pitchers)
  •  40+ pitcher, 40 hitter, and 40 pitcher
  • 40+ pitcher and three 40 pitchers
  • Three 40 position players
  • One 40 position player and four 40 pitchers
  • Two 40 position players and two 40 pitchers
  • Six 40 pitchers

One rumored destination is the Atlanta Braves. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, Fangraphs’ leading prospect experts, just released the Braves top 29 prospect list, which includes FVs (according to 20-80 scouting scale) for all 29 players. After examining the rankings, here is a list of Braves’ prospects who are likely off the table, as well as deals the Tigers could look to explore; additionally, I will reveal which deal I feel would most benefit the Tigers:

The following prospects are unlikely to be available in a deal for Castellanos straight up; they include…

55 FV Prospects:

CF Cristian Pache – gold-glove caliber defender and plus speed. Bat is developing.

3B Austin Riley – capable defender and plus power hitter (25 HR potential)

SP Mike Soroka – induces weak contact with his diverse pitch mix, which features a plus sinker, slider, and a mid-90s heater.

SP Ian Anderson – big strikeout pitcher who dominated AA. Relatively high walk rate (mid-3s) is somewhat concerning.

 SP Kyle Wright – has a good FB, slider and a changeup that could be above average too. He is likely to play a role for the Braves as soon as this upcoming season (pitched down the stretch this past season).

50 FV Prospects:

CF Drew Waters – good defender with a great bat. His play dwindled a bit after being promoted to A+ but there is a good chance that can be attributed to his age (19) relative to the rest of his competition. 

C William Contreras – brother of Cubs C Willson Contreras, William Conteras is a good bet to stay behind the plate. His bat is advanced as well, and he has pretty good power for a backstop, especially considering his age (21).

SP Touki Toussaint – he has electric stuff and proved he is ready for the show in his small stint in the big leagues (at the end of this past season). If he can improve his command, he could be a #1/2 starter. Worst case scenario, he becomes a Josh Haderesque multi-inning reliever.

SP Luiz Gohara – injuries held Gohara back after a strong showing in 2017. The upside is still there as he features a nasty curveball and a 94-97 MPH FB, reminiscent of CC Sabathia.

SP Bryse Wilson – he has a very solid pitch mix. His best two pitches are his FB and slider. Some compare him to the Tigers’ bulldog – SP Michael Fulmer. 

If the Tigers can manage to snag any of these prospects straight up for Castellanos, they will be fleecing the Braves big time. Here is a list of deals consisting of prospects who are realistically/seemingly available in return for Nick Castellanos:

  • Nick Castellanos for Joey Wentz – the Braves might not want to move Wentz, a former top 100 prospect, because they will want to rebuild his value after a down season in which injuries limited his progress
  • Nick Castellanos for (LHP 45 Kolby Allard or LHP 45 Kyle Muller) and (RF 40 Izzy Wilson or 3B 40 CJ Alexander) – Allard may be off the table as well; he had a few atrocious starts in the MLB at the end of this past season, and they won’t want to sell low. But Muller would likely be available. He is a good prospect in his own right. He had an ERA in the low 3s at A+ and AA and generated a fair number of strikeouts (around 8.5 Ks / 9 IP). Between Izzy Wilson and CJ Alexander, I prefer Alexander because Wilson hit for a very low average (in low .200s) and was strikeout prone (28-30% range) in the low minors, whereas Alexander has good raw power and is a capable defender at SS, 3B, 1B, and 2B. In my opinion, this is the deal that would most benefit the Tigers. Muller is an advanced pitching prospect that had a very good season, and he has a good chance of becoming a #4 starter in a year or two; Alexander has some upside and his fallback role could be that of a utility infielder with some pop.
  • Nick Castellanos for (LHP 45 Kolby Allard or LHP 45 Kyle Muller) and two of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – Tigers should prioritize position players over pitching prospects ridden with risk.
  • Nick Castellanos for RHP 40+ Freddy Tarnok, (RF 40 Izzy Wilson or 3B 40 CJ Alexander), and one of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – too many prospects with a high-risk, low-floor profile
  • Nick Castellanos for RHP 40+ Freddy Tarnok and three of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – the Tigers have a lot of risky/high-upside pitchers; as I previously mentioned, they should be looking more at position players.
  • Nick Castellanos for (RF 40 Izzy Wilson or 3B 40 CJ Alexander) and four of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – personally, I’d rather have two quality prospects over five prospects that carry tons of questions marks (aside from Jacob Webb, who has proven himself to be a solid reliever at AAA) 
  • Nick Castellanos for RF 40 Izzy Wilson, 3B 40 CJ Alexander, and two of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – similar logic to the above offer
  • Nick Castellanos for six of the following 40 pitching prospects (Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Tristian Beck, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, Chad Sobotka, Trey Riley, and Josh Graham) – the Braves will not want to move six pitching prospects in a deal for one player.

It was announced around a week ago that’s Castellanos and the Tigers avoided arbitration and agreed to a salary of $9.95 million. This is $1.35 million less than what MLB Trade Rumors projected; as a result, Tigers could look to acquire an additional 40 FV pitching prospect ($1 million) or $1.35 million in cash. Jacob Webb, a RHP who reached AAA last season, would be the guy I’d be looking to target. He had a 3.13 ERA and struck over over 9 batters / 9 IP in 31.2 AAA innings. Webb could contribute as a middle reliever in the big leagues as soon as next season.

So the proposal we would be looking at is as follows:

Nick Castellanos for (LHP 45 Kolby Allard or LHP 45 Kyle Muller), (RF 40 Izzy Wilson or 3B 40 CJ Alexander), and ($1.35 million in cash or RHP Jacob Webb)

Today, it was announced that Nick Markakis would be returning to the Braves on a year contract. This presumably takes the Braves out of the Castellanos picture, leaving only one realistic suitor left: the Cleveland Indians.

Fangraphs’ Depth Charts Projections anticipate Cleveland’s RFs (Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, Bradley Zimmer, and Oscar Mercado) to combine for the 3rd lowest fWAR (0.9); as a result, Indians could be interested in acquiring Nick Castellanos, the lone Tigers offensive threat. Castellanos’ surplus monetary value is $7.15 million (after agreeing to new contract with team). Here’s are two packages the Tigers could conceivably receive in return from the Indians.

  • RF Nick Castellanos and $0.85 million in cash for (CF 45+ Oscar Mercado or LF 45+ George Valera)Oscar Mercado was traded to the Indians (from the Cardinals) this past trade deadline in what was an under-the-rader prospect swap. In 427 PAs with the Cardinals AAA affiliate, he hit for a .285 AVG; Mercado also slugged 8 HRs and stole 31 bags, striking out a mere 15% of the time. His floor is that of a talented 4th outfielder who possesses plus speed and defense, as well as a good bat. Mercado could take over for Castellanos right away. Eventually, he could become the starting LF and allow Christin Stewart to shift to DH. 18-year-old George Valera is the more raw of the two prospects. He was a highly touted international signee who’s accrued just over 20 professional PAs. He’s likely to hit for a high AVG (Fangraphs gives his hit tool a 60 FV).
  • RF Nick Castellanos for RHP Luis Oviedo and ($1.15 million in cash OR one of the following 40 FV pitching prospects: RHP Eli Morgan, RHP Aaron Civale, LHP Sam Hentges, or RHP Nick Sandlin) – Luis Oviedo performed exceptionally well in 48 A- innings. His ERA was just under 2 and he struck out 11.44 batters / 9 IP while walking less than 2 batters / 9 IP. Oviedo’s WHIP was 0.92, and he generated GBs at an above average clip (around 50%). Although Oviedo would boost the Tigers system, the Tigers already have a number of talented pitching prospects. In getting Oscar Mercado, they would be acquiring someone who could contribute right away (unlike Oviedo) and replace Castellanos spot on the depth chart.

The Mets are another team who’ve been linked to Castellanos. Here are two packages they could offer the Tigers…

  • RF Nick Castellanos ($7.15 million) and $0.85 million in cash for 2B/3B 45+ Shervyen Newton ($8 million) – Newton performed exceptionally well in 266 R PAs. He walked at a high clip (17.3%) and his average was around .280. Shervyen also chipped in 5 HRs, 16 2Bs, and 4 SBs. Newton, only 19-years-old, has plenty of time to figure out a way to cut down on strikeouts (31.6%). If he can do that, then only the sky is his limit.
  • RF Nick Castellanos ($7.15 million) and $0.85 million in cash for RHP Simeon Woods Richardson ($4 million) and LHP Thomas Szapucki ($4 million) – Woods Richardson was selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. FanGraphs anticipates all three of his pitches to develop into above average offerings (Fastball and Curveball FV: 60; Changeup FV: 55). His command is pretty solid as well. Szapucki is a riskier prospect than Richardson, largely in part to the fact that due to TJ surgery, he missed all of last year. In 2017, Szapucki had an ERA in the 2s at A (in 29 IP). He also struck out over 8 batters / 9 IP.

Thanks for reading and make sure to follow me on Twitter @MaxGold81356590

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