Last season, Starlin Castro was arguably one of the most polarizing figures on the Chicago Cubs roster. Many Cubs fans were calling for his head, yet many were also willing to be patient with the young-but-experienced shortstop. Castro obviously suffered through his worst season by far at the Major League level, hitting below .250 and never really seemed to have his "head in the game". Some folks, as in myself, believe Castro had too many voices in his ear, too many thoughts and approaches. It wasn`t his fault he couldn`t focus, as ballplayers can`t have multiple thoughts in their head when they go up to the plate, it makes things very difficult. They tried to make Castro an on-base guy, and while you can`t fault them for trying, it just didn`t work. That`s not who he is.
However, this year, Castro seems to be back to his old aggressive self in the batter` s box, ripping meatballs no matter the count, and has even looked a whole lot better in the field, separating himself from the rest of the dismal Cubs lineup and his 2013 season. In 15 games, Castro has been the one bright spot (alongside Rizzo and Samardzija) in an otherwise abysmal start to the season, hitting .295 with a .744 OPS. The latter number is certain to increase as the season progresses, and Castro gets more at-bats under his belt, and more importantly, he seems very comfortable at the plate, working himself into hitters counts and driving mistakes with authority.
With Baez, it`s pretty obvious. If Baez can get work done in the field down in Iowa, he`s a prime candidate to move over to second base. With no clear Major-League starter at second currently at second base (no, Emilio Bonifacio doesn`t count), it will be fairly simple when Baez makes his way to Wrigley. Let`s just hope he can cut down on some fairly serious fielding issues (40-plus errors in Triple-A last year), and maybe a transition to second can help Baez.
More importantly, how does Arismendy Alcantara fit into this picture? With a future infield consisting of Mike Olt/Kris Bryant, Castro and Baez, the talented young Alcantara might be squeezed out before his career even begins. While performances will always dictate how future positions will be settled, it does not look good for the number 83 prospect in the game (Baseball Prospectus).
The wisest move with Alcantara might be to deal him. With the Cubs` obvious need of young, MLB-ready starting pitching, it makes a whole lot of sense to trade from a surplus in the infield to satisfy an area of great need. The same could be said for arguably the purest hitter in the Cubs` system; Dan Vogelbach. Unless the DH is coming to the National League soon, Vogelbach could be in the same boat as Alcantara. One possibility could also be to call Alcantara up later in the summer, and to see if he can truly stick, or at least show the Cubs he needs to be at the corner of Clark and Addison for years to come.
In a broader aspect, a pool of prospects such as Alcantara and Vogelbach could help land a big, unexpected fish such as David Price. A package featuring Alcantara, Vogelbach, Jorge Soler could entice the Rays to even consider talking to the Cubs, most likely involving more prospects that emerge over the course of 2014. While this scenario is unlikely until at least the offseason, it furthers the point that the Cubs have many options with Alcantara. An organization filled with talent (and more on the way) such as the Cubs has the advantage of being able to explore opportunities such as this, without potentially crippling the system.
Nobody really knows how this infield surplus will sort itself out, but I have a feeling a lot will be decided this season. Baez will reach the majors at some point (barring anything unforeseen, such as struggling at Triple-A), and possibly even Alcantara, who himself is playing at the highest minor-league level right now. If Alcantara and Castro prove their worth this season, it undoubtedly gives the Cubs a plethora of options to explore. All we can say is, some of the murky clouds of uncertainty should be cleared this summer, in either Iowa or Chicago.