Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You just can't move Castro to another position right now.

There has been a lot of talk about Starlin Castro's defensive "issues" at shortstop and how that might prompt the Cubs to move him to another spot in the field.

I've considered that as a big possibility but after thinking about it...Starlin Castro's skill set, as of right now, doesn't really make me very comfortable about the idea of moving him.

Right now, Castro is probably the third or fourth best shortstop in all of baseball when taking into account all aspects of the game.  He gets base hits, he steals bases, he's got very good range, and he's got a strong arm.

As a shortstop, Castro has near All-Star level skills.

When you examine where to move him, though, it becomes a little more difficult, based on what he has shown as a major leaguer, to see him as a near All-Star player.

Starlin has been linked to just about every position on the field except pitcher, catcher and 1st base.  I would eliminate 2nd base flat out because I don't see how moving him there hides any of the defensive issues that he particular, throwing to first base.  Castro would end up having more difficult throws, even though  those throws would be of a shorter distance than at shortstop.

We move over to third base, where Castro's strong arm would be a nice asset.  Third base offers a player more time to stop and make a good throw over to first base...potentially fixing one of Castro's few flaws.  But at third base we begin to see the major issues in moving him.  Third base does not require a player with great range to play.  We are basically eliminating one of Castro's major skills from being a factor.  The second issue is that Castro has still yet to show much power and third base is traditionally a power hitting spot on the diamond.  So you've taken an very good shortstop and you've moved him to a position where a player with the skills of Aramis Ramirez is more suited to play.  As a result, Castro's value to the Cubs, and potential trade partners in the future, decreases.

The power hitting argument rings true also with left and right field.  A singles and doubles hitting left or right fielder isn't really all that valuable.  There are already plenty of those types of players in baseball.

In my opinion if he must move, Castro's overall skill set is best fit for center field.  Castro's range is extremely good.  I have also observed that Castro is extremely good at catching fly balls....possibly the best at it on the entire Cubs team.  His arm is well above average for a center fielder where accuracy is not nearly as important as it is at shortstop.  Castro's high batting average and his potential as a base running threat are traits that you traditionally like in a center fielder from an offensive point of view.

The problem here is that the Cubs fully intend to give center field over to Brett Jackson when the time comes.  You could potentially move Jackson to a corner outfield spot as he has shown more power in the minor leagues than Castro has, but it's way way too early to even start considering that.

That pretty much eliminates everything except shortstop, where Castro currently plays.

Of course the argument, "What difference does it matter where he plays in the field?  His offensive numbers will be the same regardless."  Well, it is true his numbers wouldn't change, but it really comes down to how easily the Cubs would be able to replace his numbers at shortstop if he were to move.  On top of that, finding someone to fill 2nd base, 3rd base, left field or right field and have that player be nearly as valuable as Castro at those positions is much more likely.

There is no rush to move Castro right now.  Moving him to the outfield isn't going to help the Cubs win the pennant this year (or next year....or even the year after that).  The goal right now is to keep Castro as valuable as possible in case the Cubs decide that they would be better off if they traded him.  Castro is most valuable as a shortstop right now.

Now, please remember, before going off and ranting on this saying I'm not giving Castro a chance here...I am.  All I'm saying is that right now, moving him isn't a good move.  He's still only 22.  He is still developing.  That power still may come.  If that power does show up, from what I've seen, he can make one hell of a corner outfielder one day...but that should only be considered a number of years down the road right now.  For now, let's all just be happy with the fact we have one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball.  (And just ignore the fact he made a golden sombrero last night.)