With a pair of homers Thursday night in Cincinnati, Nicholas Castellanos built his case as the best trade acquisition of the season and joined a little-known fraternity of prolific small-sample producers. The dingers gave him nine extra-base hits through his first eight games with the Cubs, making him just the third player in the live-ball era to accomplish such a feat.
Nicholas Castellanos now has 9 extra-base hits in his first 8 games with the @Cubs.
The only other players in the live-ball era with 9+ XBH in their first 8 games after a midseason trade:
Wally Berger in 1938 (Reds) and Fred McGriff in 1993 (Braves).#EverybodyIn
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) August 9, 2019
Wally Berger was the first to do it back in 1938 following his trade from the New York Giants to the Reds, then Fred McGriff did it after moving from the Padres to the Braves 55 years later. Chicago is a common thread running through all three players, since Berger was born there in 1905 and McGriff spent two years with the Cubs late in his career.
Speaking of which, you have to wonder if Castellanos maybe stumbled across one of the Tom Emaski videos Crime Dog left behind. Not only is the former Tiger absolutely raking since the trade, but his defense at the corner outfield spots hasn’t been nearly as bad as initially feared. Not coincidentally, those things are probably linked.
No longer forced to roam or hit into the spacious alleys at Comerica Park, Castellanos is thriving in the friendlier confines of Wrigley Field and elsewhere in the NL Central. We theorized here at Cubs Insider that he might be able to match the 11 home runs he’d hit with Detroit in far fewer plate appearances due the way his batted-ball profile matched up with his new home, but we may have actually undersold his potential.
More than just the numbers he’s putting up, Castellanos brings a good deal of speed and sets a great example by busting his rear end at all times. He seems to have stepped right into that clubhouse as if he’d been there from the start, but his presence near the top of the order sets a different tone for a group that already featured plenty of pop but lacked continuity and urgency at times.
“Castellanos in particular is reminding everyone around here what hunger looks like,” Theo Epstein said on 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show prior to Thursday’s win. “That’s not a criticism of anybody else, but I think he did come in with a real focus on showing up, doing everything possible to prepare, go out and put his best foot forward and the team’s best foot forward and win on a given day and have fun while doing it.”
Can he maintain his pace through the rest of the season? Probably not, but Castellanos will undoubtedly continue to supply a much-needed spark as the Cubs head into the final few weeks of the season.