Nicholas Castellanos Hits Record 11th Opening Day Homer, Ties Tigers Total

Nicholas Castellanos is making the most of the new lease on life he received when he was traded to the Cubs within 40 seconds of the deadline, reminding his teammates what hunger looks like as he adds to his record home run total. Because every day is Opening Day for the outfielder — prove to him it’s not — the two long-trippers he launched into the bleachers Friday afternoon give him 11 on the season’s first day. That’s impressive.

It’s perhaps less so when we remove the philosophical lens through which Castellanos views the world, but it’s still pretty notable that he’s now hit as many homers in blue pinstripes as he did while drowning in Detroit. And he’s done so in nearly one-quarter the time, reaching 11 Cubs homers in 120 plate appearances after doing so in 439 trips to the plate with the Tigers. We had predicted he’d be able to do just that shortly after the trade, but he’s still got a month of games to add to the total.

Gee, it’s almost like there actually was data to suggest Castellanos would be a much better hitter with the Cubs than he had been previously. However, he also has a point when he says that analytics can’t quantify everything about his contribution to the team. Though Castellanos was able to compartmentalize his frustrations with playing for a tanking team and constantly being involved in trade rumors, his internal fire was being held in check.

Now, however, it’s like the Cubs are shoveling coal into his furnace and letting him fuel the entire team from the second spot in the order. Dude just exudes confidence, whether it’s the open jersey with no undershirt or the way he slammed his bat down as he looked back at the Cubs dugout following his second homer Friday.

Seems to me that’s the kind of guy you’d want to lock up beyond the end of this season. And Castellanos must surely realize that his recent power surge isn’t simply a function of his own talent. I mean, it is that, but there’s a pretty obvious confluence of events that might not be present with any other team or park. The combination of playing in front of packed houses during a playoff race with Wrigley’s friendlier physical confines is perfect for Castellanos’ style of play.

That goes for his glove as well as his bat, since a great deal of his perceived defensive butchery is mitigated by Wrigley’s less spacious outfield. So does that mean he’s a shoo-in to sign an extension or re-up in free agency this winter? Hardly. While both sides surely have mutual interest in a deal, Castellanos is no doubt cognizant of his increasing value and he’s got an agent who is even more keenly aware.

Of course, the artist formerly known as Artist doesn’t seem like the kind of dog who’d let his tail wag him, so we’ll just have to see what happens there. Rather than concern ourselves with any of that business, though, let’s just sit back and revel in what Castellanos has brought to this Cubs team and what he can yet bring over the next few weeks.

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