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Castellanos honing outfield skills in Reds' camp

@m_sheldon
February 26, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During Spring Training, Reds manager David Bell is experimenting with some of his outfielders by having them play in a different spot than they’re used to. But that likely won’t be the plan for Nick Castellanos who is expected to remain in right field. Unlike career outfielders

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During Spring Training, Reds manager David Bell is experimenting with some of his outfielders by having them play in a different spot than they’re used to. But that likely won’t be the plan for Nick Castellanos who is expected to remain in right field.

Unlike career outfielders Shogo Akiyama and Aristides Aquino, who played out of their normal positions on Tuesday, Castellanos didn’t convert from third base to right field until 2018.

“Where we stand as a team, I do see him playing more in right field during the season,” Bell said. “He’s working on some things. I know he’s very driven to improve as an outfielder. There’s a balance there to let him settle in where he’ll likely play the most. There may be a time we put him in left just to get a little bit more comfortable in case that comes up in the season. Right now, we’re focusing on right field.”

Both at third base and in right field, Castellanos has rated well below average defensively over his career. According to Statcast, his minus-24 outs above average (OAA) for the Tigers in 2018 was ranked poorest among all outfielders. But last season for the Tigers and Cubs, he improved to minus-7 OAA.

For Castellanos, it appears that the key to his better performance was repetition.

“I’m spending more time at it. Wouldn’t you say you’re a better reporter today than you were five years ago?” Castellanos told MLB.com. “It’s taking pride in what you do, taking pride in every ball you go after. Then it becomes more natural.”

Castellanos, 28, wasn’t really signed for his defensive skills anyway. A free agent this offseason, he joined the Reds on a four-year, $64 million contract with opt out clauses after the 2020 and ’21 seasons.

Over 151 games last season, Castellanos batted .289/.337/.525 with 27 home runs while leading the Major Leagues with 58 doubles. Following his July 31 trade to the Cubs, he hit 16 of his homers with a 1.002 OPS in 51 games.

During Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Mariners, Castellanos sharply lined an RBI single to left field in the fifth inning.

Working with outfield coach Jeff Pickler, among others, Castellanos is being helped with his positioning and first-step reactions. The cozier dimensions at Great American Ball Park and defensive shifts could also benefit the 28-year-old.

“He's very motivated to be the best outfielder he can be, and he knows he can continue to get better,” Bell said. “There's little adjustments that we can help him make that he's already recognized on his own through positioning to take advantage of his strengths and make it a little bit simpler or [easier] for him. He's a good athlete. He's more athletic than people give him credit for, there's no doubt. His speed is fine.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.