Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Starlin Castro
As the top prospect on a lot of Cubs' prospect lists this offseason, Starlin Castro isn't all that obscure. But my idea for this little series of articles was to focus on some of the less obvious names that could impact the team in 2010 beyond the usual suspects. And it might not be right out of spring training, but somewhere potentially down the winding road. And even though Castro has been hyped up quite a bit lately, there aren't many of us that have gotten to see him on a regular basis, so let's dive a little deeper into the almost 20-year old phenom. Of course, I haven't seen him play myself besides a few video clips, but that won't stop me from pretending I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING, for it's not the Internet if you can't pass yourself off as a faux expert.
Castro was signed in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 and played in the Dominican Summer League the following year with good results (299/371/371). At age 18, he found his way to Arizona and improved to 311/364/464 in the AZL and started to place on some of the prospect lists. The Cubs under scouting director Tim Wilken have obviously stressed the middle of the diamond and with Castro, Hak-Ju Lee, Darwin Barney, Logan Watkins, Junior Lake and Ryan Flaherty, they could afford a few risks with their promotions. Castro was the benefactor thanks to his coachability and got the bump to Hi-A Daytona to start off 2009. He managed it well and as a 19-year old earned a mid-season All-Star selection in the Florida State League and then a promotion to Double A Tennessee. He finished the year at 299/342/392 between the two levels, all before his 20th birthday. The Cubs then rewarded him with a nod to the Arizona Fall League where he put up a 376/398/475 slash line in the friendly hitting environmet and played in the "Rising Stars" game. This was enough to earn him a non-roster invite to the big league club and talk that he'll push Ryan Theriot out of a job.
The Cubs prospect hype machine has been at full throttle with Castro since last year and I've heard comparisions from Shawon Dunston to Edgar Renteria to Derek Jeter. Arizona Phil's comparision may have been my favorite:
Castro has been everything the Cubs hoped Ronny Cedeno would be, but never was.
Well if he can manage to not overslide second base to end a game on a walk, I can only envision great things.
The kid obviously has a great set of tools and his ability to not only hold his own, but even excel at times against older players is always a good sign for any prospect. Tim Wilken and some other reports rave about his wrist action and he's shown an ability to hit line drives all over the field while being able to handle breaking balls that are often the kryptonite to young hitters. Defensively, reports are that he has great range, soft hands, good instincts and a very strong throwing arm at shorstop, strong enough to probably play third base or even the outfield if necessary.
On the negative side, no one is sure how much power he'll be able to generate. He is 6-1" and allegedly just 160 pounds and in theory could fill out some and drive the ball out a little more often. Kevin Goldstein at BP - despite giving him a 5-star rating - worries that his approach and line-drive swing won't produce much power. And despite the excellent range he's shown at shorstop so far, he did commit 39 errors last year between the two levels. His speed and instincts on the basepaths seem to be merely average at best. He hasn't drawn a lot of walks,(6.76% BB/PA), but hasn't struck out much either(11.26% K/PA).
As for Castro's 2010 prospects, there's something to be said for hitting well relative to your age and then there's actually hitting well. Castro's career minor league numbers are 301/354/403 (757 OPS) and 299/342/392 (734 OPS) between two levels last season (not including the AFL of course). That's not much different than what Ryan Theriot did once he scrapped switch hitting in the minors(and although older, Theriot played more games in Double and Triple A) and the idea is to improve the position. Yeah, Castro's defense is suppose to be a plus over Theriot's, but once again let's actually see him do it over a sustained period in the upper minors than theorizing that he will. The kid will turn 20 in March, there's no reason to start his service time clock without a little more certainty that he can handle the major leagues. He sort of leaped up the prospect rankings last season, who is to say he won't fall right back down (anyone remember Brian Dopirak?). Let him work on his eye at the plate, let him see more quality pitching at either Double or Triple A, and if an opportunity arises where Theriot, Baker or Fontenot gets hurt or underperforms, give him a shot, but I'm not seeing how he'd help the team much in 2010 over what the Cubs have.
You can see some video clips of Castro over at Wiklifield if you're interested.
Maybe Theo will sign Shark just so he can call Billy Beane and say: "Let's see...Russell? Check. McKinney? Check. Hammel? Check. Ninja? Check. Any other deals?"
To be fair to Emery and Trestman the foreshadowing of last year started happening well before them with the failure or mismanaging of multiple draft classes forcing the team to overspend in a free agency market that is even worse than baseball. Kyle Long seems like a good pick but they traded away another good one in Olson because of Martz's stupidity and inability to change his offense to fit the team talent.
HAGSAG: I think Domonic Brown does fit the criteria of a reclamation project, but unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, I don't think the Cubs would be interested given where the Cubs are right now. A couple of years ago? Yes. But probably not now.
Brown would be better-off going to a club that is rebuilding and re-establish his value there, like Chris Coghlan did with the Cubs. And if he can re-establish his value, he could get traded to a contender at the trade deadline and take it from there.
"they just fade away"
(Except in the cases of no-fade lefties like Moyer, Orosco and Rich Hill.)
Amazing to me how quickly it fell apart under Trestman. Year 1, they were a Chris Conte brain fart away from making the playoffs. Year 2 -- coach, staff and GM all fired.
I am sure Jonathon Mota will be signed next.
AZ Phil, what is your thoughts on Domonic Brown as a reclamation project?
He also played LF in deference to Curtis Granderson.
Meh... other moves to make...hope to see a move or two soon.
I haven't seen much Bears football this year - difficult to watch the games out here, but the game I saw the week before I was watching in shock as I saw them actually make tackles. And Cutler has looked really good, too.
I guess people can quibble about play calling, but the team I saw is way more than 50% better coached (my only very minor disagreement with your comment).
Under Trestman, the team didn't do anything right. This team played like a well coached team when I saw them play the Rams.
"What is sometimes overlooked about Vogelbach because of his "bad body" and because he has struggled so much defensively is that he is a hard worker, has a great attitude, loves to play the game, and is very well-liked by his teammates, and while that may not seem important, teams do actually value stuff like that. "
As well they should. Replace a word here and there and you are describing any worker someone would hire.
Hak-Ju Lee signs a minor league contract with SF Giants.
Some closure on the 6 degrees of Separation for Matt Garza/Chris Archer
-0.3 WAR in 7.1ip last year...
-3 WAR projected over the course of a season.
the cubs just added an all-star reliever's worth of work by losing b.schlitter.
Rockies sign Brian Schlitter to a minor league contract. Good luck in Coors Field. Enough said.
i'll take him over frandy since it's unlikely he'll progress as a SS (and 2nd isn't looking much better).
i hope patton's delivery deception skills play well in the bigs over time. cubs need pitching options that are MLB-ready and dude fits the bill for a MLB/AAA mix...both needed.
I'm not saying he's great, but can we agree on the word "decent"? Became a pro at 23, called up at 26; nothing wrong with that trajectory, he hasn't been knocking around. Even in the majors his SO9 is 9.7. In the minors it's 12.2, so he's always missed bats, and without being a wild man: his walks are low. He cost the Cubs an unheralded A-ball middle infielder and a roster spot.