When the Cubs acquired Addison Russell in a mid-season trade with the A’s, there were many that said he was the next big thing at short and would make Starlin Castro move to another position. As of yet, that has not happened.
When the Cubs acquired Tommy La Stella this winter there were whispers that it was a sign that Castro was going to be traded for pitching with Javier Baez taking over at short. That obviously did not happen either.
The main question is whether Castro can hold off all comers, continue to produce offensively and hold onto his spot at short or will Russell or Baez bump him because of Castro’s defensive shortcomings?
Starlin vs. other shortstops
Starlin Castro debuted in the Major Leagues in May of 2010 as a 20 year old that had exactly 0 (ZERO!) Triple-A at-bats. All he has done since then is compile more hits (846) and doubles (163) than any other shortstop in baseball while also having the 4th-highest batting average (.284) with a minimum of 2000 ABs.
The 3-time All-Star is 8th in OPS (.735) and wOBA (.321), while being ranked 3rd in wRC (371), which puts him behind only Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes during the past 5 years.
Castro has averaged 148 games over his first 5 seasons, with the only parts missed being the first month of the 2010 season when he was in AA and the last month of 2014 when he had an ankle injury, the only significant health issue of his career.
With the exception 2013, Castro has been a pretty steady performer at the plate; he has hit around .280 to .300 with with 10-14 HRs, 65-75 RBI, around 100 Ks and 35 BBs. By most standards that is a pretty decent offensive shortstop.
2014 was arguably his best offensive season; he set career highs in OPS (.777), wRC+ (115), wOBA (.341), BB% (6.2%) and, if not for his late season injury, he would have probably set career highs in doubles, HRs, and possibly BBs.
Castro is not what you would call a defensive asset at short. Sure, he has reduced his total number of errors, but by most defensive metrics his range has diminished to a low point, meaning he is probably making fewer errors because he is getting to less balls.
His UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) in 2014 was the 2nd-worst of his career (-3.8 vs. -7.5 in 2011). For DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) he had a rating of -7, meaning he cost the team 7 runs, which, as a rule of thumb, leaves him between below average and poor defensively.
Castro used to be a little more aggressive on the basepaths when he first came up to the big leagues. His first full season saw him steal 22 bases, followed by a career high 25 in 2012. Since then, however, he has only 13 stolen bases while being caught stealing 10 times.
His Spd (Speed Rating) fell to a career low of 2.6 last season. Speed rating takes stolen bases attempts, steals, caught stealing, percentage of triples and runs scored percentage to give a player a rating. Castro’s high point was a 6.6 in 2012.
Castro is an extremely gifted offensive player and has started his career with some great numbers (with the exception of 2013). He won’t win a Gold Glove at short, but there is no denying his offensive value in a middle-of-the-diamond position. Perhaps will one day be 2nd base.
In my opinion, the biggest issue with Castro’s game is his defense. Is he brutal at short? Not at all. But if things break well for Russell or even Javier Baez offensively, do they provide more value?
If Addison Russell can keep progressing they way the baseball community thinks he will, he probably would be able to provide about the same offense, if not better, and probably will be a much better defender at short (though his size may not keep him there for his career).
It is possible that Baez will make some adjustments and absolutely mash this year; if that is the case, I think he is probably even better suited defensively for short than Castro.
I am in the camp that wants to see Starlin Castro stay a Cub for a long time, but not in the one that wants that to be at shortstop. Ideally, there will be better defensive options there that can provide similar offensive output. If Baez can figure things out with the stick, that kind of talent at short is unheard of in today’s game.
Russell looks like the real deal and has made some outstanding plays this spring at short. Either way, I am a fan of Castro; I’d just rather watch someone else play short for the next 10+ years.