Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Starlin Castro: Are we getting our hopes up too high?

Ok...our resident commenter, Frank, and superblogger, Maddog, got me thinking a lot about Starlin Castro last night.

I guess I'm a little concerned that this kid might not amount to much and that all the hype is a bit overblown.

Castro was not drafted...he signed with the organization in 2004 at (if my math is correct) the age of 15.

In fact, Castro was pretty much an afterthought until early last season when he was playing in Daytona...and playing fairly well for that team before being promoted to AA Tennessee.

Last year's prospect rankings didn't have Castro listed anywhere.

Now the kid is only 20 years old. He's going to start the season in Iowa. And that is quite young for a AAA player.

I guess the thing that bugs me is the idea that this kid is a "can't miss".

Here is this Cubbie pessimism coming out again...but supposedly Corey Patterson and Felix Pie were "can't miss" prospects too. And we all know how they turned out.

Pie was considered a top prospect, but never reached the level which Castro has this year when looking at all players in the minor leagues. Castro is ranked between 10 and 20 for all prospects in baseball this year...Pie never ranked anywhere higher than 20, and more often then not was placed only in the top 40 throughout baseball in 2006. Patterson was a top 10 prospect...and ranked as the Cubs top prospect for 3 straight years starting in 1999. (And remember Hee Seop Choi?)

So what does this all tell us? Well, at age 20, it seems ridiculous for us to be talking about Starlin Castro making the team this year...and even more ridiculous for us to think he would be a starting shortstop.

Patterson had to wait 3 years as the Cubs top prospect ('99 through '01) before really getting a chance to play in 2002. And after showing some flashes of who everyone thought he would be during the 2003 season, he plummeted into oblivion soon afterward. Pie's trip up up to the majors was significantly quicker than Patterson...but was considered one of the team's top prospect for a couple of years before he appeared at Wrigley in 2007. It seemed a bit rushed at the time, and it appeared that the Cubs really didn't know where Pie would fit into a lineup.

Look, the Cubs have a disastrous recent history with bringing top prospects to the majors. And it just seems way too fast for Castro to be lauded as much as he has with the history the Cubs have in developing talent like his. He had a nice season in the minors last year, but half of that season was in A-Daytona. The other half was in AA-Tennessee and his numbers weren't all that great. They were really good for a 19 year old at that level. But if you compare his numbers to those put up by Sam Fuld, Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir the last couple years in AAA-Iowa, they look kinda 'blah'.

Castro's numbers last year?

Where PA ave hr rbi K SB bb err
Daytona 387 .302 3 35 41 19 22 32
Tenn 122 .288 0 14 12 10 6 7

These numbers aren't superstar caliber...

Look at what these players did in recently in Iowa:

Who PA ave hr rbi K SB bb err
'09 Fuld 370 .284 2 33 24 38 23 2
'09 Fox Trot 192 .409 17 53 31 21 2 3
'08 Hufflepuff 313 .362 25 100 46 17 2 2

Now, first off, these guys were all outfielders, so the error stats really don't translate. Second, they are all in their upper 20's in age.

But none of these guys were considered top prospects, yet they all had numbers in their last year in Iowa as good or better than Castro did last season playing in much lower divisions of the minor leagues. let's take something else into consideration...need.

Do the Cubs need Starlin Castro? Does he offer something better than the Cubs already have right now? At this point in his career, probably not. This kid may some day be better than Ryan Theriot, but he's better not right now. Besides, if you bring Castro up, it would mean that Theriot would move over to 2nd base and remain in the lineup. Where do you bat Theriot, Fukudome and Castro then? You have 3 guys who would potentially be lead-off hitters. Scraptastic!

Do the Cubs intend to keep this kid as a lead-off hitter? It's probably too early to tell. Right now it appears to be the case, but at the same age, Felix Pie showed similar power to Castro in the minor leagues, yet the Cubs moved him all over the line up while he was playing in the minor leagues. When Pie came up, he didn't know how to bat lead-off.

I believe the Cubs have started straightening out their farm system now so that players like Castro don't get completely messed up like Patterson and Pie did. The Cubs have loved dinking around their prospects, moving them around from one position to another in the field and in the batting order. This lack of focus could be one of the primary reasons they have had such a hard time developing position players over the years.

But I'm drifting here...back to Castro. Is he really worth all the praise everyone is giving him right now? I just don't think so...nor yet. I just seems that every couple years the Cubs have some prospect that everyone starts pressuring the team to play on the big league club...Hee Seop Choi was that player in he's in Korea selling cars or something. Pie was that player in he's in Baltimore (how hellish is that?).

I just don't want the Cubs to rush this kid. It does him no good to be rushed. It does the Cubs no good by rushing him. He will not help this team this year. In fact, keeping him in the minor leagues for at least another year could increase his value. He is only ranked in the teens as far as overall prospects in baseball. If he stays in Iowa for all of 2010, maybe that pushes him into the top 5. And why do the Cubs even have to keep him? Let his value increase and maybe use him in a trade to bring in a desperately need left handed power hitter. Remember, the superstar position players on this team are getting old and are nearing the end of their contracts in some cases. Castro is probably not going to be a power hitter and isn't going to be replacing Soriano, Lee or Ramirez in the lineup. Josh Vitters? Yeah...he might replace one of those players...same with Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin.

In fact, the Cubs actually have another top shortstop prospect in their system right now with Hak Ju-Lee with many of the same tools as Castro has and he has the bonus of being a left handed batter. He is around the same age as Castro, and may play in the same places as Castro did last year, starting out in Daytona for the beginning of the 2010 season.


Ok, look, Castro may end up being a superstar some day. But having him play on the big league club at all this season just seems way, way premature.

At age 20, with only one season outside of rookie ball, I don't think anyone truly knows how good this kid is or even what type of ball player he'll be. And with what he has shown in his one full year in the minor leagues, he doesn't offer anything to this team that it doesn't already have.

So let's all take a deep breath. I know many of you want so show Theriot the door and replace his ass as soon as possible, but let's wait another year and see what happens.