Nicholas's last name is NOT pronounced Cas-tell-anos.
"It's pretty simple," Nick said. "The double L's are a Y. So, it's cast-ay-AH-nos."
Castellanos grew up in South Florida as a Marlins fan, idolizing Miguel Cabrera. Later, they became teammates on the Tigers.
Nicholas spent his first two years of high school at American Heritage High School in South Florida, where he played with Eric Hosmer and 2012 Red Sox first-rounder Deven Marrero on a team that won the 2008 national title.
He then played his final two seasons at Archbishop McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches, Florida.
In 2010, Nick's senior year at Archbishop McCarthy, he committed to the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship.
That season, Nicholas hit .542 with six home runs, 41 RBIs, 34 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He was honored as the Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year and competed with the 18-and-Under squad for USA Baseball that won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela in the fall of 2009.
In 2020, Nick got drafted by the Tigers (see Transactions below).
Nicholas' mother's family is from Detroit. Her Dad, Leonard Beard, is a retired Detroit firefighter. A Michigander at heart, he passed on his Tigers ties to his daughter, Castellanos' mother. He is also clearly a Michigander in voice, sounding like a one-man cheering section.
"That's my grandfather," Castellanos said. "He sounds like 10 people."
In both 2011 and 2012, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Castellanos as the second-best prospect in the Tigers' farm system. They moved Nick up to the #1 prospect in the Tigers organization in both 2013 and 2014.
In August 2013, Nick and his fiancée Vanessa Hernandez had a son.
Nicholas has family members who worked for Chrysler and General Motors in Michigan. He spent summers as a kid along the lake shores of Michigan before baseball became a year-round pursuit. (Beck - mlb.com 2/26/2014)
Michelle Castellanos looked up at the Tiger statues near the entrance to Comerica Park and cried. She did a lot of that on Opening Day. She thought she was ready for it, getting the chance to watch her oldest son, Nick, take the field in the big leagues to start a season. He was realizing the dream he told her about when he was 5 years old. All the years of picking up bats around the house, those mornings where she'd shake her head because young Nick would sleep with a bat, all came back to her.
But it's also Detroit's Opening Day. And she grew up a Detroiter, in a family that has generations of Detroiters. She brought her family up to Michigan nearly every summer for vacation. And they had several generations there to watch Nick Castellanos starting at third base for the Tigers.
It became a whole lot bigger than his dream. As the Castellanos walked into Comerica Park on that chilly April morning, it was much more than just Nick's day. "It was extraordinary, I have to tell you," she said. "I was very excited. You have anticipation, you have anxiety, you have fear, you have joy, and you have it all tied into a moment. And you just hope that moment can go well.
"I think on one level it would've happened for me if he was on any team. But for it to be my hometown. My family has been Tiger fans 50, 60 years, some of them. To get all together, wearing Tigers shirts, this just doesn't happen. My dad is a Detroit firefighter. My family is ingrained in that city."
It took an awful lot to realize that dream. And as Castellanos fully appreciates, it wouldn't have happened without her support. "She's been there from Day 1," he said, "from when I played Tee-ball in Miami Lakes Optimists to when I made my Opening Day in the big leagues, taking me all over God's green earth to play in all these tournaments and stuff. Without the help of her and the help of my dad, I wouldn't be here today."
If a parent's job is supporting a child's dream, the Castellanos family did not have to wait long for him to find his direction. Nick wasn't even in school yet when he told his mom he wanted to be a big league ballplayer. He was younger than that when she realized how much he loved the game.
"The kid's first word was 'ball.' I kid you not," she said in a phone conversation earlier this week. "And he just had such an affinity for the game. We had many other things around him to play, but he was always drawn to that. He slept with a bat. I always remembered that." (Beck - mlb.com - 5/9/2014)
Nicholas' younger brother, Ryan, was interested in baseball too. The family garage became a makeshift batting cage, with the family cars parked outside. When they moved, they tore up part of their new backyard to put in a cage.
When they weren't going to games or shuttling the kids to practice, they were throwing batting practice, at least at the start. Nick's mother's days as a BP tosser ended once Nick smacked a comebacker that left a mark. That also might have been the time Michelle and Jorge Castellanos realized they had a talent on their hands.
"I had the seams of the baseball stuck in the side of my gut," she said. "I think that was probably in junior high." She was tough, and not just taking line drives. She was the disciplinarian in the family, Nick recalls, and he took the brunt of it when his grades didn't keep up with his athletic pursuits.
"I would say a bad report card was the worst trouble I got into with my mom," he said. "A lot of yelling, a lot of stuff being taken away. Junior high, I got a little lackadaisical in school, just because I knew that nothing really mattered until high school. So seventh grade, I got into a little trouble with my parents with grades. By high school, I was pretty good." (5/9/2014)
Nicholas's mother is a teacher. She has spent her career in education, including 14 years in the classroom. She knew Nick's talent, but she also knew he needed a backup plan. When they agreed to let Nick follow his dreams, it came with conditions.
"I'm an educator by trade," she said, "so I was very involved in academics. My role was always that the kids look out for school. Yeah, it was a privilege and an honor to do some of the things that he did, and there are responsibilities that go with that.
"It was hard to balance them out, then when you realize that he does have a gift. You realize that, and then it became a balancing act. He had to stay focused on finishing his tasks first."
That became a regular message she delivered as the scouting reports rolled in and the publicity followed. Nick had a gift, one that could carry him to his dreams, but he had a responsibility that goes with it—to himself, to others, to the community. As long as he lived up to his responsibilities, his parents were always there on the other end. If he didn't, Michelle would make sure he knew about it.
The way Nick carries himself reflects that, the discipline, the work ethic, the approach. When the Tigers drafted him with their first pick in 2010, Michelle watched her son make the difficult choice between two dreams, knowing what a college education would mean, but also knowing what her son becoming a Tiger would mean to her family back home.
The house is an empty nest for now, with Nick up in Detroit, Ryan playing college ball at the University of Illinois, and their younger sister Jackie heading off to college. (5/9/2014)
The Tigers have a history of making draft picks within the family as the rounds pile up. Rarely, however, does a family member have a chance to announce the pick.
When Detroit used its 25th-round selection on Nova Southeastern University righthander Ryan Castellanos, it decided to bring his brother into the draft room to make the call himself. It was a cool moment for a family that already has built a lot of Tigers ties. "I know my mom is really excited," Nick said. "She's probably more happy than the day I got drafted, because I was supposed to get drafted. My brother, we really didn't know what was going to happen. "Her side of the family, including a retired Detroit firefighter, hails from Michigan."
Together, they've had a chance to watch Nick at Comerica Park on a regular basis over the past year and a half. Meanwhile, Ryan had been trying to build his pitching career, first at the University of Illinois for two seasons, then closer to their home at Nova Southeastern University (known for producing J.D. Martinez) in Fort Lauderdale. "He's only been pitching for three years, just out of his senior year [in high school]," Nick said. "He ended up getting a pretty decent scholarship to the University of Illinois."
He pitched there for two years, transferred, got a full ride at Nova Southeastern University, J.D.'s old college, got first-team All-Conference and was the ace of the staff, really. And only pitching three years, so he's still learning how to pitch himself, really. "He's still tinkering with his mechanics, so he can come to a professional organization and get really good hands-on coaching every day. Who knows how good he can be?"
In 2015, Ryan Castellanos went 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts. "He throws a lot of strikes," Nick said. "One thing he's really good at is pounding the strike zone. He doesn't walk a lot of people. And other than that, he's still learning as a pitcher himself, because he's only pitched for three years since his senior year in high school." (Beck - mlb.com - 6/10/2015) (Editor's note: Ryan never made the Majors.)
February 27, 2017: The Tigers announced Castellanos will now be going by his birth name, “Nicholas,” in all official ways, including when he is introduced to bat, listed on a scoresheet, or any other references.
"Just being around Nicholas, the intensity, I'm telling you, it's the same as being around J.D. Martinez," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Those two, I don't know if they hung around together, but it's the same. It's the same drive. They both have this drive. It's pretty cool.
"Nick comes up to me about a lot of different things. We've had some good conversations. He's pretty fired up about this stuff, and that's kind of the way J.D. was. So he probably had a good mentor."
It wasn't quite that relationship. Still, the competitiveness and baseball instincts bear resemblance, even if Martinez and Castellanos take different routes to get there.
"On the surface it can be similar, but the way J.D. goes about baseball and the way I go about baseball are polar opposites," Castellanos said. "I haven't done one hitting drill since I've been here. J.D. does 17 a day."
Nevertheless, Castellanos will still gladly take the comparison. "He just got a $110 million contract and hit 45 homers after missing a month," Castellanos said. "Absolutely I'm going to take that compliment. He's a heck of a baseball player."
Their career paths share some common ground. Both grew up in South Florida and had lofty expectations as young hitters. While Martinez had to change organizations to find his identity as a hitter, going from Houston to Detroit, Castellanos is finding his with the team that drafted and developed him. (Beck - mlb.com - 3/2/2018)
In 2018, Nick won the Tiger of the Year Award, as the most valuable player on the team.
TRADED TO THE CUBS
Nicholas had planned on taking his son to Six Flags over Texas during the Tigers' off-day in Arlington on August 1, 2019. Those plans changed when he received a tap on the shoulder and was summoned to Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire's office on July 31, 2019.
Castellanos had been traded to the Cubs and was needed in St. Louis. There was the matter of giving handshakes and hugs and saying goodbye to the only organization he had known since being drafted by the Tigers nine years prior. Beyond that, though, Castellanos had to deliver the news to his son, Liam, whose sixth birthday was August 1st.
"He was excited, but he didn't know why he was excited," Castellanos said with a laugh. "We didn't get exactly to go to Six Flags, but daddy got traded and everybody was excited. So, I think because everybody else was excited, he was excited."
And Castellanos was also at Busch Stadium, wearing a No. 6 jersey in honor of his son's big day. Castellanos stressed that he was willing to do whatever was asked of him by Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
"I couldn't be happier where I'm at right now," Castellanos said, "the position the team's in, the two months of baseball coming up and just doing absolutely anything that I can to help this squad win."
Castellanos was also informed that Six Flags Great America is about an hour's drive north of Chicago. "True," Castellanos said. (Bastian - mlb.com - 8/1/2019)
Nickname: ARTIST. Castellanos enjoys painting and photography in his spare time and often signs his pieces simply "Artist" when he's finished.
2020 Season: In January 2020, the Reds capped an offseason spending spree by signing right-fielder Nick Castellanos to a four-year, $64 million deal. A hot commodity after being one of the best second-half hitters in 2019, the team hoped that breakout would continue in Cincinnati.
Through the first two weeks of the season, it did. Castellanos started the year on a 12-game hitting streak, hitting .366/.447/.878 with six home runs. He looked like an MVP candidate. There was worried chatter in the Reds Twitterverse that he’d exercise his opt-out clause after the season.
But then he ran into a brick wall. Castellanos hit just .192/.262/.395 while striking out in nearly 30% of his remaining 195 plate appearances. The cold spell dragged his season slash line down to .225/.298/.486. His batting average and on-base percentage were career worsts. His slugging percentage and wRC+ (102) were his worst since 2015. His strikeout rate skyrocketed by seven percentage points to a career-worst 28.5%. Understandably, he decided not to opt of his contract.
Still, there was plenty to like about Castellanos’ season, even if the results weren’t what he or the Reds hoped for. He had a career-best 7.9% walk rate. He smoked 27 extra-base hits (11 doubles, 2 triple, 14 homers) to lead the team. He also blistered the ball and did so consistently.
Castellanos’ average exit velocity, which stayed around 88 mph throughout his career, was 91 mph in 2020. That put him in the 82nd percentile and trailed only Jesse Winker for the team lead. Nearly half of his batted balls (46.7%) were hit at 95+ mph, also a career best. His barrel rate (16.0%) was in the 92nd percentile. (Matt Wilkes - March 2, 2021)
April 5, 2021: MLB issued Castellanos a two-game suspension for his part in a bench-clearing incident against St. Louis. He is allowed to play pending his appeal.
April 20-22, 2021: Nick had his two-game suspension upheld by MLB, rejecting his appeal following a benches-clearing incident with the Cardinals earlier this month.
Castellanos served his suspension on April 20-21, 2021 while Cincinnati hosts Arizona at Great American Ball Park. (M Sheldon - MLB.com - April 19, 2021)
July 2021: Castellanos was chosen to start in the MLB All-Star Game. He will be in the NL’s starting lineup for the first All-Star Game of his career.
“An incredible honor, man,” Castellanos said. “The love and support that I’ve heard from the stadium and teammates, coaching staff, players on the other team, I’m honored, really, and very thankful for everybody casted a ballot for not only me, but Jesse also.”
Castellanos, 29, was leading the NL in batting average (.346), hits (102), doubles (27), extra-base hits (44) and total bases (179). He is second in slugging percentage (.607) and OPS (.1002). He also has 16 home runs and 53 RBIs.
July 12, 2021: Throughout their breakout All-Star seasons for the Reds this year, right fielder Nick Castellanos and left fielder Jesse Winker have independently tapped into a resource previously missing from their games earlier in their careers.
It's raw emotion, and they've been more than ready to let it show. Both players have long had the talent to become All-Stars, but this is the year they put it altogether on and off the field partly because they have come into their own as people and players.
"I guess my emotions come out because I care a lot," Castellanos said. "If you care a lot about something, you're usually going to do it better than if you don't care that much."
Castellanos and Winker have been at or near the top of the NL in several hitting categories much of this season. The NL's leader in batting, 29-year-old Castellanos is slashing .331/.384/.585 with 18 home runs, 29 doubles and 59 RBIs.
Winker endured his toughest stretch so far just before going into the All-Star break, but he is slashing .301/.382/.539 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs.
Their success was noticed by the fans, who elected them as starters for the NL team. It's the first time since 2013 that the Reds have had two starters in the Midsummer Classic, and it's the first time they've sent two starting outfielders since 1956.
"Early on when I first got called up to the big leagues, I feel like I was just trying to find my way a little bit and fit in, not rub anybody the wrong way, play hard and just try to get focused," Winker said. "I tried to adjust to the level. As time passes, you start learning about yourself and learning about the guys you're playing against and everything. You start believing in yourself more. That authenticity just came out. This year, I didn't try to mask it or hide. I just tried to let it go."
Winker called that feeling "100 percent" refreshing.
"I'm lucky that I have a great group of people here that allow me to just go be myself," he said. "I try to take it one day at a time and stay in the moment. Sometimes, it's a fist pump and a yell. Sometimes, it's a helmet slam. That's the whole package. I've tried to dial down the frustration part, but sometimes it comes out."
Castellanos, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds, admittedly didn't feel real comfortable playing under pandemic restrictions in 2020. But in 2021, he's become the one of the club's leaders.
In the season's second game on April 3, Castellanos possibly set the tone when he flexed over Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford after sliding into him while scoring on a wild pitch. It came after he was plunked in retaliation for his bat flip from hitting a home run on Opening Day vs. St. Louis. The move got him suspended for two games, but the team and Reds fans have rallied behind him since.
Castellanos has been able to fire up his teammates with his aggressive style, and also pick them up when they're struggling with words of encouragement.
"When I was younger in Detroit, a lot of that was faded out," Castellanos said. "I was more worried about making sure I was having success and I wanted to stay in the big leagues. The sight of winning can kind of get blurred when you become unsure of yourself. Once I went to Chicago [in 2019] and got traded, I think all of it just naturally came back, because I left an organization that wasn't trying to win to having an opportunity to make the postseason."
The Cubs didn't make the postseason in 2019. But Castellanos did reach the playoffs with the Reds in 2020, when they were swept in two games by the Braves. Cincinnati has been hovering around a .500 record much of this season but is still alive for a pennant chase in the second half.
"It's understanding how difficult it is to win and not wasting an opportunity when you have one," Castellanos said.
Drafted 49th overall by the Reds in 2012, Winker already has set his career highs in homers and RBIs this season. On May 21 at Cincinnati and again on June 6 at St. Louis, he delivered three-homer games—the first Reds player to achieve the feat twice in one season.
Both Winker and Castellanos often hear chants of "MVP!" from fans at Great American Ball Park. Winker often interacts with fans in the left-field section of seats and might offer a fist bump to one if he's near the wall after a play. When talking about his success at times this season, Winker has occasionally been emotional to the point where tears begin to flow. He's not afraid to show he's human off the field, either. Part of that, Winker believes, is that he became a first-time father during baseball's COVID-related shutdown.Wren Mila Winker was born on May 27, 2020. Her father wears her "WW" initials on a necklace that's often visible during games.
"Mike Moustakas told me that when you become a girl dad, you're softer. Ever since I had my daughter, it's just come out -- raw emotion," Winker said. "Everything that's happened the last couple of months, I've tried to stop and enjoy it, because being a kid and being somebody who loves baseball and grew up in baseball, it's kind of been full circle in a way. A lot of appreciation. I'm very thankful for everything. It comes out with tears because part of me doesn't believe it still.
"Part of me doesn't believe I've hit three home runs in a game and part of me can't believe it's happened twice. I try not to think about it, but I will reflect on it at the end of the year. I try to get lost in helping the team win games."
Castellanos believed it was important for players to show that they aren't robots on the field.
"I'm definitely not afraid tell people how I feel, almost to a fault, because it gets me into trouble sometimes," Castellanos said. "You protect the investments, don't truck the catchers and slide right into the base and all of these things. Catch a ball like this, swing like this, spin rate like this. Then instead of it becoming a child's game being played to win, it becomes a showcase where you have players wanting to play to make the most money possible."
The festivities around the All-Star Game in Colorado will give all players a chance to really soak in their seasons of personal success and a festive atmosphere. The father of a 7-year-old son, Castellanos plans to enjoy the moment with him.
"I'm really excited to experience it all with my son and wife and family," Castellanos said. "I think it's going to be a fun experience and great memory for them."
Winker will be there with his daughter among others, grateful for the opportunity he's received this week.
"My whole family is going. I know they know that none of this is possible without them, the same with my coaches and teammates," Winker said. "I'm really going to enjoy it. These are the best players in the game. Just to be around them and listen to them and talk to them and get to share a clubhouse with them is cool." (M Sheldon - MLB.com - July 12, 2021)
2021 Season: The 29-year-old earned his first career All-Star selection in 2021 while producing a .309 batting average, 34 home runs and a .939 OPS, all career highs in his ninth major league season.
June 2010: Nick was the Tigers first round-compensation pick in the draft, out of Archbishop High School in Southwest Ranches, Florida. He slid to the 44th pick because of reports that he was going to demand $6 million to sign. Then Casetellanos signed with scout Rolando Casnova for a bonus of $3.4 million just before the August 16 deadline. He passed up a scholarship to the University of Miami.
January 2017: Nick and the Tigers avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $3 million contract for 2017.
January 11, 2019: Nick and the Tigers avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $9.9 million.
July 31, 2019: The Tigers traded Castellanos to the Cubs for RHP Alex Lange and RHP Paul Richan.
Oct 31, 2019: Nick chose free agency.
Jan. 27, 2020: The Reds signed Castellanos to a four-year, $64 million contract with a $20 million mutual option for the 2024 season. Castellanos will earn $16 million in 2020, $14 million in 2021, $16 million in 2022, and $16 million in 2023. He also has opt-out clauses following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
- Oct 31, 2020: Castellanos did not invoke an opt-out clause in his contract ahead of a deadline that would have made him a free agent. That means Castellanos will be part of the club in 2021.
Castellanos has three years and $48 million remaining on his deal but has a second and final opt-out clause after next season.
Nov 4, 2021: Castellanos informed the Reds that he is exercising the opt-out clause of his contract to become a free agent. Castellanos, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract ahead of the 2020 season, had two years and $34 million remaining on his deal.
Castellanos had two opt-out clauses in his deal, but he did not exercise the first one following the shortened 2020 season. Nick received a Qualifying Offer for one year for $18.4 million.
Non 16, 2021: Castellanos rejected the club’s qualifying offer. So Cincinnati will receive draft-pick compensation following the first round.