Nick Castellanos’ excuse for questionable defense in right field is, well, questionable

Castellanos is having problems with the new digital out-of-town scoreboard in right field this season. At least one NBC analyst doesn't buy the excuse.
Cincinnati Reds v Philadelphia Phillies
Cincinnati Reds v Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies are eight games into the 2024 season, and a few alarming trends have already emerged. The base-running blunders that doomed the Phillies at times last season have continued to kill momentum with aggressive running and pick-offs ending innings before the offense can do damage. Johan Rojas continues to look lost at the plate, and his 1-for-22 showing begs the reasonable question, "How long can you swap out offense for defense?"

The Phillies' latest issue is Nick Castellanos's regression as a defender in right field. This problem comes as a surprise, as Castellanos had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage playing the position last season despite having poor advanced metrics.

Filling in capably for the injured Bryce Harper in right field last season, few would have believed Castellanos would be the most consistent outfielder on the 2023 Phillies, a performance that earned praise (subscription required) from The Athletic's Matt Gelb — and perhaps some false hope.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 2024 season, and Castellanos looks lost fielding the position. His hapless routes to balls in play during Wednesday night's loss to the Cincinnati Reds stood out like a sore thumb on an evening when very little went right for the Phillies on the field and in the batter's box.

What could be the source of Castellanos' issues in right field?

It's not like anyone will ever confuse Castellanos with being a Gold Glove defender. A 1.000 fielding percentage last season was a welcome surprise, but a feat that the historically defensively challenged Castellanos is unlikely to repeat.

None of the plays during Wednesday's game resulted in an error, but watching Castellanos make questionable reads on some routine balls in play has fans wondering the source of such a regression. He has already accrued -2 DRS (defensive runs saved), -2 OAA (outs above average), and -2 FRV (fielding run value), according to FanGraphs.

According to manager Rob Thomson, Castellanos cites the newly installed out-of-town scoreboard in right field as contributing to his early season woes in the field. Thomson spoke to reporters after last night's game.

"Casty was telling me the other day that the new scoreboard is kind of – he's gotta get used to it," said Thomson. "Because he feels like he's right on top of the scoreboard and he's not. He's got a lot more room. So might take a little time to figure that out."

Former Phillies closer and NBC Sports Philadelphia postgame host Ricky Bottalico absolutely shredded Castellanos' excuse that the scoreboard has anything to do with his performance in the field. Bottalico argues that Castellanos should know where the warning track is and how much space he has between himself and the wall. To put it mildly, Ricky Bo wasn't buying the excuse that the new wall was to blame on Wednesday.

Obviously, the season is still young, and Castellanos has plenty of time to acclimate himself to the new scoreboard. Judging by the small sample size, Castellanos will have to put in some work if he hopes to regain his awareness in right field at Citizens Bank Park this season. He'll have his next chance when the Phillies open a three-game weekend series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12.