Starlin Castro's Rookie Season

Seriously how can you not love Starlin Castro? The Cubs actually have a competent shortstop since yeah a long time.  He's twenty years old and hitting over .300 and has an OBP almost at .350. But lets go a little deeper as to why he has been so good.


When Starlin Castro was called up it seemed like a desperation move (and maybe ti was) but he quickly showed what a real shortstop looked like. He brushed the midget Theriot over to second base where he belonged (too bad it wasn't Japan). Yes his defense was terrible but his bat impressed and his mechanics. 


I remember Bob Brenly saying how Castro could hit the fastball but Major leaguers would continually throw him breaking balls. The First At  Bat of Castro's young career he took out on a curveball. Right now he's hitting the slow stuff better than the fast. Take a look.


eason Team wFB wSL wCT wCB wCH wSF wKN wFB/C wSL/C wCT/C wCB/C wCH/C wSF/C wKN/C
Total - - - -0.3 -4.7 -1.5 3.2 5.0 1.7   -0.05 -2.09 -3.14 2.49 4.85 16.97  
2010 Cubs -0.3 -4.7 -1.5 3.2 5.0 1.7   -0.05 -2.09


As you can see He's actually hitting the Curveball and Change up a lot better than the fastball/slider. 

When you watch Starlin Castro bat I think it's obvious why he's able hit the breaking stuff. If you have ever played baseball before you've probably heard your coach say "hips before hands" meaning to keep your hands back and drive the ball with your hips. Castro does that perfectly. Look at where his hands are during the pitch




I really like his swing. That leg kick I think helps him adapt to the breaking pitches and keep his hands back. He has really nice hip rotation . Sometimes you'll see him get far out in front because his stride will be too long but that doesn't normally happen.  His swing allows him to react to the breaking pitches. His head is usually always down and he has a really nice line drove stroke. 


2010 Chicago Cubs Spring Training - Starlin Castro at the Plate (via ChicagoCubsOnline)


Combined with a good swing is patience. That's the one thing I like to look for in prospects. If a hitter is patient and takes his walks I think that means he has got a good idea or in another way command of the strike zone. This year (granted small sample size) Starlin is only swinging at pitches outside the zone 32% now that's not sensational or anything but when your a twenty year old i'd say it's pretty good.

He's not been the greatest at taking walks but when your hitting a line drive 20% of the time you can get away with not taking walks. Now he hasn't hit for the greatest power but you would expect him to put on weight and maybe go from his current 175 form to maybe 195lb. Obviously you don't want him to put on too much because he has some speed but he doesn't have great speed. But his consistent  line drive power is what makes him so good.


He consistently puts the barrel of the bat on the ball and has a knack for making adjustments. He has no trouble hitting breaking pitches, usually taking the first one from a pitcher he hasn't seen before, sizing it up and attacking the next. Though he had just 32 extra-base hits in 2009, Castro has the power potential to double that total once he matures physically. He has added 15 pounds in the last year and Chicago envisions him growing to 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds.


As noted in this article (now it's outdated) Starlin is one of the few young shortstops to post an OPS plus as a twenty year old that high. The names include A-Rod, Jim Fergosi and more. And now currently Castro carries a 106 OPS plus which would put him fourth all time in young shortstops with OPS pluses that high. 

One thing that has been overblown is his defense. Yes he is not the greatest at short but errors aren't a good way to measure defensive success. Actually scouting reports like his defense better than his glove. This was a scouting report on Castro's defense from Baseball America:


Castro excels defensively as well, with range to both sides, body control and arm strength to make any play. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the Florida State League. The Cubs also like his instincts, charisma and work ethic.



Castro just needs time to fill out and polish his game. He made 39 errors last season, which isn't a high number for a young shortstop but shows that he needs to play more under control. He makes so much contact that he doesn't draw many walks, though he does work counts. He's still learning to look for pitches he can drive in certain situations. He needs to hone his basestealing technique after getting caught in 11 of 39 tries in 2009, though he did go 6-for-6 in Double-A.


The errors have been tough to watch but remember he's only twenty and nearly every scouting report you read talks about his range. Now I'm not going to expect 30 steals or something ridiculous like that but I think it is reasonable to expect about 15 to about 20 steals a year. But what really makes you excited is the comparisons (BA again):


Castro's performance has drawn him comparisons with the likes of Tony Fernandez, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada—and even Derek Jeter


Do you know what Derek Jeter's first full year in the Bigs looked like? He hit .370/.430/.800 and won ROY. Castro on in his first full year in the big leagues is hitting .356/.443/.799. Eerily similar to Jeter. Oh and Jeter's OPS plus was 101 while right now Castro's is 106.  I'm not sure Castro is Rookie of the Year material but it's pretty damn close.

So the Cubs finally have close to a five tool player. He's not an asshole like Sosa or hyped like Pie or injury prone (knock on wood) like Prior he's just a really good player that Cub fans should embrace.

Now that the Cubs are out of it I would encourage you to just watch the development of Castro or Colvin. Instead of looking at the wins and loses look at what the young kids are doing. It will make watching baseball a little more enjoyable.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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