Perhaps this is the year Nicholas Castellanos, who agreed to a four-year contract to join the Cincinnati Reds, really blossoms into a top-flight fantasy option. Castellanos, presumably in his prime entering his age-28 season, has intrigued many for years, but the fact remains we are still waiting for a 30-homer season, and he has knocked in 90 runs only once in six full seasons. The Reds, despite clear outfield depth, are betting the best is yet to come, and perhaps it is.
Castellanos languished in the downtrodden Detroit Tigers lineup for months last season before the trade-deadline escape to the Chicago Cubs. Then, of course, he was properly motivated in his contract year to hit .321 with 16 home runs and 37 extra-base hits in a mere 51 games. Could Castellanos produce to this level for a six-month term, breaking into the top-10 crew of fantasy outfielders? Sure, few question his hitting ability, but he is safer regarded as a borderline top-20 outfielder, one with power and batting average upside that has never quite busted out to stardom.
Looking within the numbers, part of the reason for greater expectations has been the way Castellanos consistently hits baseballs hard while also appearing among the leaders in barrels. In addition, his baseline for batting average on balls in play is among the highest for players with more than 3,000 plate appearances, at .333, despite tepid speed (he has 11 stolen bases in 25 career attempts). We know this fellow can hit. We do not know if he can produce numbers befitting a true fantasy keeper, though myriad fantasy managers already treat him as one.
As for the other Reds, Castellanos figures to hit in the middle of an underrated lineup, perhaps protecting third baseman Eugenio Suarez and new second baseman Mike Moustakas -- signed earlier this offseason to his own four-year contract -- and that means good things for each. While I would like to see regular playing time for Jesse Winker, he is a career .176 hitter against left-handed pitching. Perhaps Winker platoons in left field with late-season standout Aristides Aquino, who might not warrant 500 plate appearances after all. After the Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama (center field) signings, where this signing leaves promising but potentially brittle youngster Nick Senzel is problematic, but at this point, it is best to ignore him in standard drafts.