I doubt it’ll happen in 2013.
However, now is a good time to talk about what improvements I think we will see from Castro in 2013 and why the whole “Is he a Theo player?” thing is kind of silly on a few levels.
Starlin Castro crept up on Cubs fans in 2010 as initial reports of a hot shot Dominican shortstop bled out of Spring Training and culminated in a rather fantastic debut which featured a record-breaking 6 RBI’s and a very unfortunate haircut.
Skip over a few 200 hit seasons, some lackadaisical defense and a regime change to the present day and we now have a slightly polarizing player who is at once a known commodity, misunderstood, overrated, underrated, and completely confusing.
The Starlin we know today is a good player at a premium position that has teased with bouts of elite and #slack.
Castro is a good hitter that lacks patience. He has the tools to be a good shortstop but his mental errors are currently capping what he can do in the field. He is a young player that is still learning at the MLB level, but he is a player that needs to refine his craft if he wants to take the next step into the elite category.
Essentially, anyone that writes off Castro as a bad player, or who thinks they already know what Castro’s career arc will be need to cool their evaluation engines. He has a lot of promise and he is knocking on the door of greatness, here are some of the improvements I would like to see from him:
He needs the D
Castro started off 2012 horribly from a defensive standpoint. He committed 7 quick errors in May before righting the ship and making a significant jump forward the rest of the way.
Castro would end up with a league high 27 E’s, but he also improved his fielding percentage, led the league in range factor, and did pass some of the eye tests when it came to playing the position well.
He needs to make another jump and become more than simply competent in my estimation. This year I will look for Castro to improve on his defense, refine his throws to first, and have a deeper understanding of what it is to play the position at the MLB level. Castro has the physical gifts to be a good shortstop, he needs to meld that with focus and #want to get there.
Walk off the island
I have a love/hate relationship with this saying. On the one hand I find it funny, on the other I find it mildly offensive when it’s used irresponsibly by white broadcasters.
Anyway, Castro famously did not talk a walk for 20+ games in the early stages of 2012. Starlin is not a very patient hitter at this point, he likes to swing the bat and he tends to fall in love with his bat coverage. This is a weakness that pitchers exploit via the low and away breaking stuff that Castro loves chasing.
Towards the end of the year Castro did refine his approach a bit as his walk rate jumped to a respectable number. The Cubs said that his dip from June to early August was a result of Dale Sveum and his coaching staff working with Castro’s pitch recognition (Bleacher Nation did a great write up on how Rowson worked with the Cubs to become more patient).
So, I would like to see Castro hold onto those gains and up his walk rate to 8-10% by season’s end.
Castro has a very pretty swing, from stance to finish. It has some lift to it which still makes me hopeful that he can be a 20-25 HR guy in the future. Castro came up as a baby, and throughout his MLB career he has been upping his ISO numbers to a fairly respectable number.
This will also aid in the search for walks as pitchers will be more reluctant to give him easy stuff to hit if they have to respect the HR potential.
I’m not asking for a major jump in SLG or HR numbers. I would like him to gain some of the doubles back and perhaps add a few HR’s to the 14 he hit in 2012.
Player careers are not on a linear path, there are some growing pains along the way. With that said I think Starlin Castro is close to breaking out. He’s shown the ability to hit, he’s shown flashes of incompetence with the glove, he’s shown a flash of patience, and he’s shown some decent power potential. It’s nearing time that he puts it all together and takes the next step from All Star to legitimate baseball star. A SS that can put up a .300/.360/.470 slash line with good defense is just that, and I think Castro can do it.