With 11 games left, Cubs right fielder Nicholas Castellanos has a chance to hit 60 doubles, a feat accomplished only six times in major-league history, and not since 1936, when Joe Medwick finished with 64 and Charlie Gehringer had 60.
Castellanos extended his major league lead with his 56th double Wednesday night against the Reds, the 20th-best on the all-time single-season list. He has had 19 in only 45 games since joining the Cubs.
The all-time record is 67 doubles, set by Earl Webb in 1931. There have been only two players with 57 or more doubles since the 1930s: the Rockies’ Todd Helton (59 in 2000) and the Blue Jays’ Carlos Delgado (57 in 2000).
Castellanos, not surprisingly, said he’s not thinking about the 60-doubles mark.
“Not really,” he said. “Why should I?”
If it was a home run record, everyone would be talking about it.
“Do you think Chicago would rather me get this record and we lose and then we don’t make the postseason?” he asked.
Well, they’re not mutually exclusive. Finishing with 60 or more doubles would not preclude the Cubs from making the postseason.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said.
Castellanos is hitting .391 in 22 games at Wrigley Field, with seven home runs, 14 doubles and a 1.184 OPS. In 49 games with the Tigers at Comerica Park, he hit .262 with three home runs and 17 doubles. Wrigley seems well-suited for his gap power and hitting approach.
“It’s Wrigley Field,” he said. “I like it. Hitting-wise, it’s a great park to hit in. I mean, any park is a great park to hit in compared to where I came from, you know?”
With Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez out, Castellanos’ value to the lineup has only been magnified.
Manager Joe Maddon called Castellanos a “thinker,” and said he has been a big influence on loosening up Kris Bryant. The two had T-shirts made with characters from the Disney movie “Moana.”
“From the beginning, I’ve really liked his joy for the day,” Maddon said. “I thought it was infectious. And then I watched the approach. … He’s very motivated, very driven right now.
“But the approach, man, it’s just the ball is on the barrel all the time. It’s rare that he doesn’t get to the barrel against a variety of different pitching. A big part of it is his approach regarding how he uses his hands and stays inside the baseball. He’s a gap kind of a guy. He’s not just trying to just launch and pull homers.”
Castellanos, 27, will be a free agent after the season and stands to cash in.
“He’s not in a bad spot,” agent Scott Boras told the Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. “He’s the youngest free agent, and he doesn’t have a qualifying offer. So I would say he’s in position to be optimally observed because he fits … any team … whether you’re a rebuilding team because of his age, or whether you’re a club that is close to winning and wants to win, or an existing top [level] club that’s going to compete for the World Series.”
Whether playing the final 2 months for the Cubs makes him more likely to want to return is a question he’s not interested in discussing.
“There have been no discussions or anything past this season, because I think just like myself, they’re focused on winning,” he said.
Castellanos said there are a “lot of variables” to consider, but like every other free agent, it will be a business decision.
“I will say this, I love being a Cub, I love the fans and support that I get from everybody here,” he said. “But like I answered before, there are a lot of pieces that have to fall into place that are in my control and also not in my control.”