With the world continuing to be in dumpster fire mode, I figured I’d write about things that I love. No, not my kids (although this week we learned to ride a bike without training wheels, flew a kite, lost a tooth, and watched The Sandlot for the first time – pretty epic week), but two players that I’ve fallen hard (phrasing) for – Marcell Ozuna and Nick Castellanos. Both players have similar ADPs, with Castellanos being at 83.4 and Ozuna landing at 88.6 (average ADPs from ESPN, NFBC, Yahoo, and CBS). Both players also have new homes that feature good lineups in hitters parks and the sum of the parts has my pants feeling a little tight….oh wait, that’s just the quarantine-15 that I’ve put on. Let’s dive into both players and see if we can find a clear winner.

 

Big Boi in Hotlanta

Marcell Ozuna enters his age-29 season looking to recapture that age-26 season magic. Back before his St. Louis days, Ozuna had the season of a lifetime, putting up a .312/.376/.548 slash line with 37 bombs in 2017. Ozuna’s first year with the Cardinals was marred by a nagging shoulder injury that eventually led to post-season surgery. In his sophomore season with the Red Birds, Ozuna came out swinging, mashing 10 homers in April. He also seemed to discover a penchant for stealing bases as he tallied three steals in April. Considering Ozuna had only crossed three stolen bases in a season just once in his career, the new-found speed was certainly intriguing. By June 28th, he managed to mash 20 homers and steal 8 bags, but why is our cutoff date June 28 you might ask? Good question. Because that’s the day that Ozuna fractured three fingers diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt, causing him to miss 28 games.

Ozuna returned on August 3rd and batted just .214 down the stretch, albeit with 9 bombs and another 4 steals. He finished the year with a .241 average with 29 homers, 12 steals, 80 runs and 89 RBIs in 130 games. A solid fantasy season, but the average left something to be desired. Diving a little deeper leads us to a little sunshine among the rain. For the year, Ozuna landed in the 96th percentile for hard-hit balls at 49.2%. On top of that, he had an xBA of .288, thanks to a .257 BABIP that landed him 10th worst among 135 qualified batters. If he continues to hit the ball hard, that BABIP should regress to the mean leading to a batting average that shouldn’t hurt you.

My main question is are the steals legit and should we continue to expect them moving forward? In his first six seasons in the league, Ozuna stole a total of 14 bases. He then followed that up with 12 in 2019. What changed? Ozuna’s sprint speed has predictably declined as he’s aged, landing in the 62nd percentile in 2019. Not terrible, but certainly not a reason to all of a sudden show off your speed. The answer may lie in a change in coaching philosophy. In seven years under Mike Matheny, the Cardinals averaged 92 stolen base attempts per year. However, under new coach, Mike Shildt, they attempted to steal 145 bases, being successful 116 times. Now that Ozuna has a new home in Atlanta, will he be asked to continue being aggressive on the basepaths? Brian Snitker has been the Braves head coach since May 17, 2016. In his time as head coach, the Braves have averaged 115 stolen base attempts per year – better than Matheny, but worse than Shildt. I think we get a glimmer of hope from Freddie Freeman’s performance on the basepaths. Freeman has stolen 30 bags in Snitker’s time as head coach, despite having a sprint speed in the 41st percentile. To me, this means we can count on a handful of steals from Ozuna. Maybe not the 12 steals that we saw in 2019, but not the 0-3 that we saw from 2014-2018 either.

From a park factor perspective, the move to Atlanta should be a positive one. In 2019, Truist Park in Atlanta had a park factor of 99 against right-handed hitters for homers, whereas Busch Stadium had a park factor of 91 (99 median). Roster Resource has Ozuna projected to bat cleanup in the Braves lineup. With Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman batting ahead of him, Ozuna should have plenty of RBI opportunities. However, the departure of Josh Donaldson leaves the bottom of the Braves lineup looking a little sparse, which could limit Ozuna in terms of the runs scored category. Obviously, things will be adjusted once we know what the season schedule holds, but Steamer had a projection of 31 homers, 80 runs, 98 RBIs, 7 SBs, and a .276 batting average in 144 games.

 

Casty in the Nati

On July 22nd, Nick Castellanos voiced his displeasure about playing in Comerica Park. On July 31st, he was traded to the Cubs. Coincidence? I think not. But it’s clear both from his words and his performance that Castellanos was happy to not call Comerica home. In 100 games with the Tigers, Castellanos hit 11 homers (9.2% HR/FB), had a 42.1% hard-hit rate, and a 21.9% strikeout rate. In 50 games with the Cubs, he hit 16 homers (23.2% HR/FB), had a 42.8% hard-hit rate, and a 20.9% strikeout rate.

While he’s no longer with the Cubs, he should have a good time hitting in Great American Ballpark. Castellanos’s main complaint about Comerica Park was that the full length of centerfield was 420 feet from the left-center gap to the right-center gap. He’d mash a ball that went 410 feet (a bomb in most stadiums) and it would end up looking like a routine fly ball. Great American Ballpark, on the other hand, is 404 feet to dead center from home plate. It’s also a tad smaller than average down the lines. Given his high rate of hard contact, it’s surprising to me that last year’s 27 homers were a career-high. Getting out of Detroit should help those power numbers, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he sets a new career-high this year.

Speed has never been a big part of Castellanos’s game. Over his six seasons, he’s never stolen more than 4 bases in a year, despite having a sprint speed in the 72nd percentile. Taking a look at his time in Detroit, the Tigers averaged 95 stolen base attempts per year (in non-Rajai Davis years), which was well below the league average of 115. On the bright side, in David Bell’s first season as manager, the Reds attempted 118 steals. That number was slightly better than league average, but by no means Shildt territory. Unless the Reds make a big fundamental change towards being aggressive on the basepaths, I wouldn’t expect more steals than you can count on one hand.

Thanks to having a hard-hit rate of greater than 40% and a line-drive rate of over 30% in three of the last four years,  it’s easy to put Castellanos down as a positive contributor in batting average. An xBA of at least .283 in each of the last four seasons backs that assumption up.

In 2019, Castellanos hit 100 runs for the first time in his career. However, he batted second in 99 games, batting either third or fourth in the remaining games. With Roster Resource projecting Castellanos to bat fifth, I wouldn’t expect to see him tally 100 runs again. But I would expect to see a high volume of RBIs with the likes of Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas, and Shogo Akiyama hitting ahead of him. Steamer has Castellanos projected for 25 homers, 77 runs, 86 RBIs, 3 steals, and a .273 average in 139 games. Personally, I view Ozuna as more of an injury risk than Castellanos, so I’d bump up Castellanos’s games played. I’m also surprised to see them down on Castellanos’s batting average as he’s eclipsed .273 in three of the last four seasons, with .272 being his low point.

 

Who You Got?

Now that we’ve traversed the landing spots of these two sluggers, who do you got? Maybe I’m foolish for ignoring Steamer some, but I tend to gravitate more towards Castellanos despite the lack of stolen bases. Maybe that’s what you let guide your decision in drafts. If you’ve already stockpiled stolen bases, go to Castellanos. If you need some extra speed, look to Ozuna. Either way, I love the value of these two outfielders.

 
  1. krazyivan says:
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    Great article and even better milestones for your fam. I spoke to someone who had a neat perspective. 5-10 years from now people who are adults now will be asked about this time and will mention being stuck inside and everything shut down. While teenagers or young adults will be asked to look back at this time as little kids and they will mention all the time playing outside in the yard and having mom or dad around spending more time with them. Time will tell.

    I will take the upside of Ozuna. I will take batting 4th in that lineup all day. The Reds to me have this baseball version of the Cleveland Browns/they are never going to be better then the sun of their parts. They are going to leadoff with Shogo and Votto? Pitchers beware…And in terms or runs scored, who is going to drive in Casty if he bats 5th behind Saurez and Moose? Galvis or Winker?
    I like Casty’s floor the most of the two, but Ozuna has the better upside.

    • Richardo

      Richardo says:
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      See my comment below :/ thought I had hit reply the first time lol

      • baby seal says:
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        I think we’ll eventually see Castellanos bat 2nd most days, w/ Votto subbing for lead off on Akiyama’s off days, and batting 5th most of the time…

        Votto is done IMO, and the Reds are going for it. Eventually, stars get moved down. Will be painful to do… but it’s going to happen… all of his skills are in MAJOR decline.

        Will share my thoughts down below on the article. Thought it was REALLY good! Agree that I like Castellanos better, even though I don’t love either of them this year at ADP. But Castellanos is the better option by a wide margin, IMO. Think the upside is much greater in that park, and regardless, have some pretty big concerns w/ Ozuna after I dug into him not too long ago.

        Cheers and thanks!

        • baby seal says:
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          Corrected below on why Castellanos likely not going to be batting 2nd… I guess Winker has the best chance to take that spot, if he can ever stay healthy.

    • baby seal says:
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      Such a cool perspective! Thanks!

  2. Richardo

    Richardo says:
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    Thank you! I love that perspective. I have twin 5 year olds and while there are definitely times when they drive me up a wall, it’s been great to spend this time with them. There are times when I miss the adult interaction, but we’re just enjoying this time with the kiddos.

    Haha the comparison to the Browns is so spot on. I fell for Puig/Winker/Senzel last year because of it. I do agree that I think Castellanos has the safer floor, but Ozuna has the better chance of returning top 2-3 round value depending on the steals and average.

    • baby seal says:
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      Per my last comment, maybe I agree the top percentile outcome is on Ozuna’s side, but the probability-adjusted upside is in Castellanos’ favor, IMO

  3. 183414 says:
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    At a 6th-8th round pick , depending on 12-15 teams, a higher floor is preferable.

    • krazyivan says:
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      Definitely in over 162 games-agree with you-I’m hopping on some high variance, high upside guys if a few of them hit then I’m going to take some pick jumps in a 12 team roto. Not playing for a safe second place.

      • 183414 says:
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        I’ve told my buddies this exact thing. In a sprint like this season definitely will, my chances of repeating last year’s overall championship are greatly diminished.
        I made a couple of changes, higher value on top tier catchers and closers , but in the 8th rounds of my 12 team OLC drafts, I passed on both Castellanos and Ozuna in every draft.
        Had Ozuna on a couple of teams last year, and Soler on a few, as their adp’s presented great upside for me.
        Now, with what appears to be an 80-90 games season at best, all bets are off, and luck will have a largely determinative factor in the overall standings.
        Manfred as commissioner during this year will help bring the demise of baseball as we knew it.
        I’m almost at the point of writing this year off as Manfred seems to be under the thumb of power crazed governors bent on reshaping our country and it’s culture.

  4. Laura Holt

    Laura Holt says:
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    Hey Richardo! I actually almost wrote about Ozuna in my last post (but decided to go with a whole different subject) because after looking at all my rosters, he is in like my top 6 or 7 in terms of guys I drafted the most. I was NOT expecting that going into drafting season; honestly I didn’t even consider him a target at all. But there were 3 main factors that sort of subconsciously swayed me… 1) really like the move to ATL, 2) I read something on fan graphs ages ago suggesting that he might be in for some positive batting average correction, and 3) I have become an absolute sucker for anyone who has a decent chance to steal 10 or so bags vs. a similar player who does not. Generally I like Castellanos too and have him on a team or two, but overall just felt like I was getting him at value if he does what I expect him to, while Ozuna was providing a bit more value for me in relation to his draft position. I guess I completely agree with krazyivan above — NC probably has a more solid floor, but just feeling a little more upside with MO

    • Richardo

      Richardo says:
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      Hey Laura! In one of my early drafts I was targeted NC and ended up settling for Ozuna after getting sniped. But after digging deeper I might’ve just taken MO outright anyway.

      The batting average should definitely have some major regression. Landing in the 96th percentile in hard-hit rate, but also in the bottom 10 in BABIP is pretty insane.

      haha those 7-10 steals go so much further than they used to!!

  5. baby seal says:
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    Commented above a bit so I’ll jump right into this on why I never got into Ozuna this year, despite initially thinking he would be a target for me back in Jan.

    First, his contact metrics are quite poor. That can be fine if you hit the ball hard like he does. OK.

    Why is his average so low now? That’s the question. Often cited xBA and BABIP seem like the easy answers.

    His Pull% has gone way up, and w/ that, his Shift% has too. This reminds me of Teixeira, as a Yankee fan. A once great average hitter turned into a pumpkin. Too predictable. Harper comes to mind too.

    I then looked at his video, and while this is *VERY* subjective, as I am obviously not a scout, but did play at a fairly high level — I REALLY do not like his swing mechanics. There’s no way, especially at his age now, that he’s every going to increase those contact% metrics.

    I have a bad feeling Ozuna is going to be a .240-.260 hitter for the rest of his career.

    I don’t love Castellanos at ADP either, as said above. But I at least can see the immense potential upside in that park.

    I said he might bat second… but I said that thinking he had a better OBP… not sure why I thought he was a good BB guy. So I guess I’m off there in retrospect. 5th might be the best place to keep him, with Winker potentially having the best shot to take Votto’s spot, if he can ever stay healthy.

    Thanks and GREAT article!!

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