Entering the 2013 season the star was shining bright for Chicago Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro. Coming off three solid seasons an a 212 effort that included a career best 14 homers and 25 steals there was some hope that he could go 20/20 in 2013, or at least 15/25. Toss in a batting average that had been at least .283 in his first three seasons, and the fact that he began the year as a 23 year old, and it was easy to look past the holes in his game and his lack of maturity. We should have paid more attention to both.
The 2013 season was an unmitigated disaster for Castro. Let me count the ways.
After hitting .300, .307 and .283 his first three years he batted .245.
After knocking home 66 and 78 runs in 2011-12 he had 44 RBIs.
After scoring 91 and 78 times in2011-12 he recorded 59 runs.
After stealing 22 and 25 bases in 2011-12 he stole nine bags.
His OBP fell to .284. Remember, his AVG was at least .283 his first three years.
His SLG fell to .347, .090 points below his 2011-12 mark.
My goodness his OPS was .631, .122 points below ’12 and .142 below ’11.
He was also benched for not knowing how many outs there were continuing a trend of seeming aloof, distant an uncaring.
He had a .562 OPS with runners on base and it was .528 with RISP and two outs.
He hit .226 with a .619 OPS against left-handed pitching.
He hit .229 at home.
He hit .260 on the road but his OPS slumped to .610 away from Wrigley.
He had a .582 OPS in night games.
There’s also this… he really has no idea what he’s doing on the basepaths. He stole nine bases in 2013 but was caught six times, that’s a horrific 60 percent success rate. Studies have shown that you need to maintain a 67 percent success rate on steal attempts or you are harming your teams chance to score runs. That’s right. All the running that Castro did last season actually hurt the Cubs ability to score runs. Moreover, in his 102 career steal attempts he has 66 steals, so after four years all his base stealing efforts have had a negative effect on the Cubs ability to score runs. Yikes.
Like I wrote above, he was an unmitigated disaster in 2013.
An already poor controller of the strike zone with three BB/K ratio seasons that failed to reach the league average, that number dropped even further in 2013 down to 0.23. As a result, his .284 OBP was only one point higher than his career batting average. Pathetic. He simply must become more discerning at the dish. His contact rate is solid, but there are two things at play here. (1) His strikeout mark has grown every season of his career: 71, 96, 100 and 129. Not at all what anyone wants to see. (2) His contact rate has therefore dropped in 4-straight seasons: 86, 85, 83 and 82 percent. That’s why his average tanked. He still posted a decent 19.9 percent line drive rate in 2013, only two tenths lower than his career mark, and though his .290 BABIP was .033 points below his career mark, that’s still a league average level. The average should rise if only the BABIP bounces back, but that might means .280 and not .300 given the regression we’ve seen the past few years.
As for the pop he’s pretty much maxed things out. He’s still young and often players learn to lift the ball as they age, there’s no doubt about that, but he just doesn’t hit the ball in the air, an honestly, given his skill set, that’s a winning move for him. In four seasons his career-high fly ball ratio is 32 percent, about three points below the league average. His career HR/F ratio is 5.9 percent and the mark has never been above 8.0 in a season. Again, that’s below the yearly big league average in the nine percent range. There’s no reason to think that more power is coming at this point.
Castro is talented, will play every day, and will be only 24 years old on Opening Day 2014. He’s also had three solid seasons among his four years in the bigs, and there should be a reasonable expectation of a bounce back effort. What does that look like though? It’s very difficult to see him stealing 25 basses, hitting .307 or scoring 91 runs like he has in the past. There are just so many holes in his game right now that expecting a full rebound is asking too much. Still, I’d be shocked if he didn’t end the 2014 as a top-10 shortstop, and there is still of plenty talent here for him to be a top-5 shortstop. Luckily for you he won’t cost near that much on draft day to add him to your club which makes him a solid player to target in 2014.
By Ray Flowers