Nicholas Castellanos has been a Statcast favorite this season with his high exit velocity numbers. All the screamers he’s hit are finally finding holes. And seats.
Castellanos extended his hitting streak to 15 games on Monday with a 3-for-4 showing in a loss to the Athletics. He’s had multiple hits in nine of those 15 contests and is sporting a .431 average during the streak.
Castellanos’ hot streak extends back farther than just those 15 games, though. Across his last 35 tilts, the 25-year-old is sporting a .368 average with seven home runs, 13 doubles, three triples and 34 RBI. He’s risen his batting line from .236/.303/.429 all the way up to .270/.320/.485 over that span.
Now in right field for the Tigers with Jeimer Candelario taking over at third base, Castellanos entered Monday with a robust 43 percent hard-hit rate on the season, a number that ranked eighth among 149 qualifiers. Also, while his flyball rate of 37.9 percent is down from the last couple seasons, Castellanos continues to hit a good number of balls in the air. Additionally, he’s sporting a career-low 21.6 percent strikeout rate.
Because he’s already in his fourth full major league season, it can be easy to forget that Castellanos won’t turn 26 until a few weeks before Opening Day next year. It also might have slipped your mind that he was once ranked as a top-20 prospect in the game. Castellanos’ numbers by the end of 2017 are likely to still look rather pedestrian, but there are certainly some indicators that he could really break through in 2018.
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Seager’s Elbow ‘Not 100 Percent’
The Dodgers have begun to right the ship of late, following their 11-game losing streak with four wins in their last six tries. However, one of their stars is playing hurt and will have to continue doing so for the rest of the season.
Corey Seager has been battling soreness in his right elbow for roughly a month now, and on Monday manager Dave Roberts admitted that Seager is “not 100 percent” and probably won’t be until the offseason. The team still hasn’t revealed the exact nature of Seager’s injury, although there’s been speculation that he could be dealing with a bone spur or bone chips. Surgery over the offseason is possible, if not probable.
“I think there’s a little bit of preservation, understanding where his arm is at,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it’s 100 percent. I think he is doing a little bit of guarding against it and protecting. He knows his body very well and he knows when to let it go, when not to. But I do think it’s clear he’s doing some protecting. I do think he’s not showing the arm strength that he does have because I think he’s trying to manage it.”
The shortstop was limited to pinch-hitting duty for 11 games during a stretch from late August to early September but Roberts said he anticipates Seager’s day off Monday to be his last one of the season. As the skipper alluded to, Seager’s elbow reportedly only is an issue when he’s throwing. However, the numbers say it might be affecting him at the plate, as well.
On August 29 it was revealed that Seager’s elbow was sore and had been hurting him for a couple of weeks. If we use August 15 as a rough timeline, Seager entered play Monday batting .286/.309/.352 with just one home run and a 20/2 K/BB ratio over 97 plate appearances since the elbow began barking. Only four of his 26 hits during that stretch went for extra bases (three doubles, one homer). Seager’s hard-hit rate has also been down since August 15 at 37 percent. That’s still good, mind you, but is down significantly from the 48 percent mark he had for the year prior to that span.
I have no idea if Seager’s elbow is bothering him at all at the plate, and fantasy owners are surely going to be starting him even if he’s less than 100 percent. That said, I do think it’s interesting that the timeline of his struggles appears to match up with the injury.
Wainwright Headed to ‘Pen
Out since mid-August with a right elbow impingement, Wainwright threw a one-inning simulated game Sunday and declared himself ready to go. He’s poised to be activated from the disabled list prior to the Cards’ series opener in Cincinnati on Tuesday, but the three-time All-Star will be used as a reliever down the stretch. Ultimately, the decision just came down to timing.
"It's hard to imagine getting him back into the rotation with, realistically, 13 days left," said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations.
The calendar is a worthy excuse for sticking Wainwright in the bullpen for the final weeks, but his performance this season makes it an easier call. The 36-year-old has had some good stretches in 2017, but he’s ultimately been a big disappointment with a 5.12 ERA over 23 starts. The elbow was clearly an issue in his last couple starts before he went on the disabled list, as his fastball velocity had dipped to the 84-85 mph range.
Wainwright has experience as a reliever, of course, serving as the Cardinals’ closer during their World Series run in 2006. He also made a few relief appearances late in the 2015 season after making a quicker-than-expected recovery from Achilles surgery.
With Wainwright penciled in as a reliever down the stretch, that means Jack Flaherty will remain in the rotation for now and will start Tuesday in Cincy. Flaherty posted a dominant 2.18 ERA and 147/35 K/BB ratio over 148 2/3 frames between Double- and Triple-A this season to earn a promotion, but he’s struggled in three starts with the big club with a 6.08 ERA and 13/7 K/BB ratio over 13 1/3 frames.
Flaherty is currently lined up to make three more starts before the end of the season, although that plan could be altered based on how he does. The 21-year-old’s 162 innings this year already represent a career high by 28 frames, so the Cards will keep a close eye on him. If the club does eventually decide to shut Flaherty down, Mozeliak mentioned John Gant as an option for a spot start or two. Gant held a nice 3.83 ERA and 99/25 K/BB ratio over 103 1/3 innings across 18 Triple-A starts this season and has a 2.16 ERA in four relief appearances with the big club.
American League Quick Hits: Xander Bogaerts hit a solo home run and walked three times in Monday’s extra-innings win over the Orioles … Aaron Judge socked a solo home run – his 44th of the season – in Monday’s victory over the Twins … Matt Olson homered again and drew a pair of walks in Monday’s win over the Tigers … Dustin Pedroia left Monday’s game versus the Orioles after a foul ball bounced and hit him in the face. He’s initially been diagnosed with a nasal contusion but could be sent for more tests if he’s still sore … Miguel Cabrera (back) was hitless in four plate appearances in his return to the lineup Monday … Pedro Alvarez reached base five times and slugged a solo home run in Monday’s loss to the Red Sox … Jaime Garcia struck out nine across 5 2/3 shutout innings in Monday’s win over the Twins … Jharel Cotton was scratched from Monday's start against the Tigers due to a right groin strain … Hanley Ramirez (biceps) is expected to return to the lineup at some point during the series versus the Orioles after pinch-hitting on Monday … Eduardo Nunez (knee) plans to run the bases Wednesday and do more tests Friday before hopefully returning to the Red Sox' lineup … Ian Kinsler hit an RBI double and a solo homer in Monday’s loss to the A’s …
National League Quick Hits: Giancarlo Stanton had an RBI single and slugged a three-run home run – his 55th of the season – in Monday’s win over the Mets … Noah Syndergaard (lat) threw to hitters Monday. The hope remains that he will make an appearance or two before the end of the season, but it’s not a given … Marcell Ozuna had four hits – including a solo homer – in Monday’s victory over the Mets … Pirates general manager Neal Huntington indicated Sunday that Starling Marte (finger) might not make it back this season … Aaron Altherr blasted a grand slam off of Clayton Kershaw in the Phillies’ comeback win over the Dodgers … Ryan Braun singled and belted a solo home run in Monday’s win over the Pirates … Chris Taylor went 2-for-3 with an inside-the-park home run in Monday’s loss to the Phillies … Jedd Gyorko (hamstring) should be cleared to play the field and run the bases by Tuesday … Mike Montgomery will start Tuesday against the Rays, with Jon Lester pushed back to Wednesday … The Pirates have shut down Francisco Cervelli (quad) for the remainder of the season … Tyler Glasnow will pitch in relief on Wednesday but will make at least one more start for the Pirates this month … Matt Harvey was tagged for seven runs on 12 hits and two walks over four frames in Monday’s loss to the Marlins …