As the Chicago Cubs prepare for what could be another rough year, if not just a little better than 2013, one of the players to watch as the new 2014 gets underway is going to be Starlin Castro. Not only is the young shortstop going to be attempting to rebound from what was an absolutely dreadful year for him, there’s a chance that he could be fighting with his spot with the organization as prized prospect Javier Baez creeps ever-so-closer to the big leagues.
Castro posted the first negative WAR of his career and posted numbers that were the worst in his brief time on the North Side. He went for a slash line of just .245/.284/.347/.631, down from a batting average of .283 and an on-base clip of .323 the previous season. In each of the last three years, Castro has seen those percentages drop across the board, while his strikeout rate has gone up, all the way to 18 percent in 2013.
Despite the projections that his power will increase as his career wears on, Castro only put the ball over the wall 10 times and his stolen base amount dropped all the way to just nine. Castro attributed a great number of his struggles to too much coaching going on around him, both from the former staff in Chicago and from the front office. Fatigue can also be a factor, as Castro has only sat out a total of five games in three seasons, four of them being in 2011.
Defensively, Castro continued to struggle. Despite showing improvement over the course of the 2012 season, 2013 represented a regression with the glove, as his UZR slipped back into the negative, at -3.3 for the season. It’s a combination of it all that has many questioning whether Castro has a spot in Chicago for the future, and whether that spot will be at shortstop.
There are certainly questions for the 23-year-old. His work ethic has been questioned, though it remains to be seen how much validity there actually is there. Does he possess the type of psychological makeup required to rebound? Therein may lie a valid question. Of course, with a fresh start with a new staff and virtually no trade rumors, indicating that the Cubs still have faith in him, he should be able to rebound. If he does, it may be a position change to second or third in order to fit Baez into the mix when he’s ready (likely at some point this summer).
The Cubs have said that Javier Baez is not changing positions. Which means that Castro is either changing positions or is being shipped out at some point. The former would present a much more favorable situation for the Cubs, as it would mean that he rebounded. Keeping that bat around, especially if he ends up at second, would give the Cubs an outstanding middle infield, perhaps among the best in baseball. Of course, that’s assuming that Starlin Castro is able to recover from a disastrous 2013 season. Until we see what 2014 has in store for him, it’s very difficult to project what the future holds for Castro in Chicago.