What To Honestly Expect From Starlin Castro In 2011

Within the turmoil that was the 2010 season, the Cubs had few things to smile about amid the gloom. Starlin Castro’s break-out rookie season was among the bright spots for Cubbies.

Among producing a .300 batting average, he showed spectacular range at times, making some jaw-dropping plays in the field. That said, Cubs fans shouldn’t put their city on the soon-to-be 21 year-old’s shoulders just yet.As Baseball America’s #1 Cubs prospect (#16 overall) before the 2010 season, Starlin Castro certainly did his best not to disappoint.

Castro was called up May 6th (as the team was already five games behind division leader St. Louis Cardinals), and promptly he torched the  Cincinnati Reds for six RBI’s, a triple, and a homer (coming on his first major league at-bat), leaving some over-zealous Cubs fans to think that we may the second coming of Alex Rodriguez planted at shortstop.

Over the next 500 or so plate appearances, Castro showed he would produce similarly to what he showed in his minor league career. Castro hit for excellent contact in 2010, connecting on 85.9% of his swings (league average – 80%). While not drawing an abundance of walks, he drew the count exceptionally well, seeing 3.63 pitches per at bat.

Where his bat is limited is in the power department. He only hit four total home runs in 2010 (three in MLB, one in Triple-A), although he slugged 31 doubles in the majors (along with 8 in Triple-A), more than Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Marlins Shortstop Hanley Ramirez. He doesn’t put the ball in the air enough to become a home run threat (1.76 GB/FB).

To draw a comparison, Derek Jeter drew 3.65 pitches per at-bat and made 85.5% contact.

In Castro’s minor league career, he was highly aggressive on the base paths, attempting a steal every 3.7 times he was on first. In the majors, however, he was a bit more hesitant, running every 7.5 times on first. While Castro has plus speed, his base-stealing ability is actually very raw. He was successful 66% of the time in the minors, and only 55% successful in the majors. Starlin has to improve his base stealing instincts in order to take full advantage of his speed.

Starlin Castro’s ceiling is very, very high. Expecting Castro to hit for about a .290-.300 average is certainly not absurd. What is unrealistic is expecting him to hit for 15-20 home runs. If he reaches ten homers, a .300 average, and avoids mental gaffs in the field (27 errors, 2nd most in the MLB), Castro will be a top  contributor for the Cubs in 2011. That said, Cubs fans need not forget that the young shortstop is only in his second year, and will begin the 2011 season barely legalized to drink.

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