By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Starlin Castro, Shortstop, Chicago Cubs
2011 season: 158 G, 674 AB, .307 AVG, 10 HR, 66 RBI, 22 SB, .773 OPS
It’s been a rough couple years for the Cubs. After finishing second in the National League Central in 2009, the team dropped to fifth the past two seasons. That led to the turnover of this offseason, when Theo Epstein was named the team’s president and Jed Hoyer the general manager. Their goal will be to rebuild a Cubs organization almost entirely from the ground up, but one piece that they are near certain to hold onto is Castro.
The name of the game at shortstop is defense, which is why it is one of the most offensively inept positions around the league. But in his two years of Major League experience, Castro has shown that he has a high offensive ceiling. He may have only hit 10 homers that year, but he also collected 36 doubles and nine triples, giving him a .432 slugging percentage that ranked sixth among qualified shortstops. Considering that he was just 21 last year and has a lot of physical maturing to do, that’s very impressive.
It would be better for Castro if he displayed more patience, though in fairness, he does own a career .304 average. There’s every reason to think that he will keep hitting around .300 or above as he progresses toward his peak, making discipline less important for him than it is for other players. Castro does need to improve his defense if he wants to remain a shortstop for the rest of his career – his fielding was sub-par by many metrics last year – but he’s athletic and the Cubs will give him every opportunity to prove that he can figure it out.
A positive sign in that regard is that Castro has already shown an ability to learn and improve in other areas of his game. Despite possessing speed that is well above average, he was only able to steal 10 bases in 18 attempts (55.6 percent) in his rookie season. Last year, Castro was much more successful, swiping 22 bags in 31 attempts (71.0 percent). He still needs to pick his spots better, but it’s nice to know that Castro’s baserunning ability is trending upwards.
Overall, Castro’s profile has “superstar” written all over it. While parts of his game are still raw, he has nonetheless become one of the league’s best all-around shortstops at a very young age. As he adds more power and refines the other parts of his game, Castro will become the face of a rebuilding Cubs franchise. And when the team finally does find success again, he will very likely be a big part of it.
Next up on March 23: Milwaukee Brewers