St. Louis Cardinals: The most dangerous Cubs player
By Matt Graves
The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t played the Cubs since the Trade Deadline. At that time, they acquired one of their most dangerous hitters. Who is it?
The Chicago Cubs team that the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be playing seven times over the final ten games are a different team than what the team saw earlier in the Summer. With recent injuries to two of their best players, Anthony Rizzo (ankle) and Javier Baez (thumb), as well as their mid-season signee Craig Kimbrel, though he is due to come off the IL on Thursday.
In their absence, Victor Caratini and star shortstop prospect Nico Hoerner have stepped into their roles and done well, but it’s not the same as the All-Stars they are replacing. Normally, it would be a benefit to face a Cubs team without these three players, but Rizzo and Baez haven’t been carrying the team in the second half; their biggest Trade Deadline acquisition has.
While the Cardinals notably did…uh… nothing at the Deadline, the Cubs made a few minor deals that included acquiring Nicholas Castellanos from the Detroit Tigers for next to nothing. The pending free-agent had been on the Cardinals radar in the past but without a notable hole at a corner outfield spot, he had fallen off the radar in 2019.
He is a bad fielder, no other way to put it, but when the Cubs acquired him, he was having a solid .790 OPS season with some extra-base power, but (like most players in Detroit) wasn’t lighting the world on fire. The Cubs gave up next to nothing to snag the rental and then for whatever reason, he exploded at the plate.
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The difference between his numbers in Detroit and in Chicago is staggering and he has kept the Cubs in the race for sure. Whether or not this output from Castellanos is sustainable or a fluke doesn’t matter, what does matter is that this is how he is the Cubs’ hottest hitter right now and the team needs to gameplan for him.
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Batting second most of the time, Castellanos has the protection of the on-base machine Ben Zobrist in front of him and Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber behind him. The top four batters in the Cubs lineup is not a very fun group to face, but it’s what the Cardinals are going to need to figure out how to beat if they want to win the division or even make the playoffs.
Wherever Castellanos goes at the end of the season, the trade the Cubs made for him was one of the best moves at the Trade Deadline. The Cubs front office deserves credit for finding a player that is making such a huge difference and being able to realize that he could be acquired without giving up top prospects.
The Cardinals very well could’ve acquired Castellanos as well but there wouldn’t have been any playing time for him. This is letting our own front office off easy as doing nothing at the Deadline was not the best possible move. Still, the Cardinals sit with a 3.0 game lead and the final seven games against the Cubs and Castellanos will be very exciting.