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.
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?