Why Nick Castellanos’ first home run was more than just a home run

His first home run of the season might be the turning point for Castellanos.
Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos hit his first home run of the season on Friday
Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos hit his first home run of the season on Friday / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

There was a lot to take away from the Philadelphia Phillies' 9-3 drubbing of the San Diego Padres on Friday evening. How about an eight-inning, 10-strikeout performance from Aaron Nola that continued a recent trend of dominant starts from Phillies starting pitchers?

Maybe Alec Bohm notching three more hits and looking like the hottest hitter on planet Earth right now? We could zero in on Brandon Marsh getting it done with the bat and robbing home runs with ease in left field.

Home runs? Check. The Phillies hit five of those last night too.

The Phillies started off their first West Coast road trip of the season with a balanced attack that showcased the kind of scary team the Phillies can be when all is going right. It's easy to miss certain points of narrative drama when you peek at the box score, but one of the five home runs stands out more than all of the others.

While historically impressive, we're not talking about Kyle Schwarber's 100th career home run in a Phillies uniform either. For the first time in 2024, Nick Castellanos joined the home run party.

Before Castellanos' third-inning solo shot, the slumping right fielder had been off to a dreadful start to the season and had only one extra-base hit to his name before launching a ball just over the wall in left field. All told, Phillies hitters abused Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove in this one.

Castellanos' home run was one of three the Phillies hit off the right-hander in the inning following an absolute missile off the bat of Bryce Harper and a two-run shot from Brandon Marsh before Castellanos stepped to the plate.

Castellanos has been one of the worst hitters in baseball in 2024

One game is not going to solve all of Castellanos' problems, but the positive takeaway here is that he has removed at least one monkey off of his back. Perhaps that will signal a return to approaching the run producer he was in 2023, a season that saw him drive in 106 RBI and represent the Phillies as an All-Star. The notoriously streaky Castellanos has been in these types of funks before as a hitter, but this April has been exceptionally brutal to watch for Phillies fans.

The overall numbers for Castellanos remain concerning through his first 108 plate appearances this season. His .178 batting average, two extra-base hits, and .228 slugging percentage are alarmingly low for a player previously capable of hitting for power and driving in runs in the middle of the batting order.

This cratering lack of production at the dish has resulted in Castellanos being ranked close to the bottom in fWAR and OPS among qualified hitters. Factor that in with a bWAR of -0.9, and it's fair to question how long Castellanos will remain this type of liability in the Phillies lineup?

The Phillies have remained patient while Castellanos and fellow slumping teammate Bryson Stott attempt to dig their way out of rough starts to the season. Baseball is a weird sport, and sometimes all it takes is a little success to mentally switch gears and get back on track as a hitter.

His early season struggles offensively and defensively have Phillies fans rightfully concerned, but his teammates have done their best to keep Castellanos' spirits high throughout his rough start.

Speaking to reporter Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer after the game, Castellanos detailed how the support he has received from players in the clubhouse has helped him remain positive during this rough stretch.

“It’s a hard game, but when they feel my success as their own success, and I feel their success as my success, that’s just recipe for good camaraderie,” he said, per Coffey. “And I think it just speaks to what we’ve been able to create here over the past couple years.”

One home run isn't going to dramatically alter Castellanos' numbers, as they are currently far below average. But any hint that the slugger is ready to break out should be a welcome sign for Phillies fans still waiting for the entire offense to do what it does best: abuse opposing pitching staffs and blow the doors off teams with a flurry of power and extra-base hits.

Could this be the turning point for Castellanos? Let's hope so.