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Nick Castellanos Is The Phillies’ Himbo Hero

Nick Castellanos rounds third after hitting a home run
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

We love Nick Castellanos. He's hot, he hits home runs, and he's got a knack for turning would-be solemn moments into communal experiences of amusement at the unpredictability of baseball, and life in general. If he has a flaw, however, it's that he plays the field, and he's not particularly effective there. Statcast's fielding run value has him at -10, near the bottom of all other guys in RF this year, due to both poor range and a mediocre arm, and this isn't any kind of outlier season. (Nick started his career as a third baseman.)

He's also—and I swear I mean this as a compliment for him—not the kind of guy I would trust to make major decisions. Reasoning his way to Scooby-Doo being his favorite superhero is probably the strongest example of his unique mind, but whenever he's not at the plate, Castellanos brings a hazy, back-porch vibe to this team. It never feels like he's working, exactly, but that the ballpark just happened to be the most inviting place he's stumbled upon so far today. He is the lifeguard who spends most of his time chatting up girls on the deck chairs. He's the convenience store clerk munching chips at the counter. It's just impossible for him to seem worried or stressed about his responsibilities when that barely buttoned jersey is hanging wide open while he stands in a big grassy expanse. And he's charismatic and friendly enough to let his teammates in on the secrets of his lifestyle.

To quote Castellanos when he was introduced as a Phillie: "I don't have a college degree. I hit baseballs."

He hit baseballs pretty far a couple of times when the Phillies played Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon. In the second inning, he connected with a slow pitch and sent it on a long flight to deep center. (It was caught bare-handed by a fan holding a child, who then put the child down to throw it back onto the field.) And in the fourth, to put the Phillies up 4-0, Castellanos cranked the first ball he saw over the opposite field wall.

But after the NL East leaders fought back to tie the game at four, Castellanos was called upon in the bottom of the ninth to make a critical choice—not with his bat, but with his glove. Atlanta got a guy to third as the potential winning run with only one out, and Orlando Arcia lofted the ball into foul territory in right. In a situation where a sacrifice fly ends the game, the safe play would be to let the ball drop and give your pitcher another chance. But even as Phillies announcer John Kruk implored his outfielder to ignore the ball, Castellanos moved toward the seats, caught it, and then ... made a brilliant spinning throw to stop Luke Williams in his tracks and send the game to the 10th, where the Phillies would win 6-5 and shore up their playoff position.

Nobody on the Phillies side thought this was a good idea. “We were all sitting there in the dugout murmuring, ‘Drop it, drop it, drop it.’” said manager Rob Thomson.

“I was screaming at the top of my lungs to drop it,” said catcher Garrett Stubbs.

“I saw him not get behind it,” second baseman Bryson Stott said, “And I said, ‘Oh crap.’”

But anyone who's watched enough Scooby-Doo should know that meticulously designed plans aren't as effective as chaotic improv. In the final stretch of a season where it feels like the Phillies' fortunes are constantly swinging one way or the other at the very ends of games, Castellanos opted for the latter.

“I thought I should drop it,” he said. “Then, at the last minute, a voice popped in my head and said, ‘Catch it and throw him out.’"

Castellanos added, of that voice in his head, “He’s evil."

You can have an outfielder who doesn't listen to evil voices in his head, or you can have Nick Castellanos. I know who I'd choose.

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