When Starlin Castro debuted at the big league level in May, I was about as excited as anyone. At the same time, I was wary of the hype that was being generated on his account. Now that a few months have passed (and the 20-year-old is practically a veteran amongst all the other Cubs rookies and call-ups,) I thought it would be worth writing up a little evaluation of Starlin’s performance thus far. [Spoiler Alert: If you want to look at this “evaluation” like a report card, the kid’s making the honor roll.]
Let’s start with hitting. Because hitting is fun. I, for one, did not expect Starlin to make the transition to facing major league pitching quite so seamlessly. Of course, I also expected that his ’09 move from single to double A would slow him down a hair. Instead, he excelled. Perhaps, I thought, reality will strike the boy in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He was, after all, the youngest player in the league and would be facing only top pitching prospects. Well, he went and won his division’s batting title. I ended up being disappointed only that he wasn’t able to sustain a .400 average. Then, in May, came the biggest leap of them all, Tennessee to Chicago. Even after Starlin made on of the greatest debuts in modern baseball history I thought he was going to have to hit a wall at some point. I’m still waiting.
Watching Starlin at the plate has been a treat of the most delectable variety. He is a legitimate candidate for both the NL rookie-of-the-year award, and the batting title (which has never been won by a rookie.) I don’t believe that he’ll win either award… RoY will likely go to Jason Heyward, or someone else who has the benefit of contributing to a winning team, and Carlos Gonzalez is looking like he could run away with the batting title. But still. You have to feel that having such an exciting young player in those races has been a thrill. I think I heard that Starlin leads the NL in hits since the All-Star break. I give him a well-deserved ‘A’ in hitting.
Of course, we all know that there is more to a player’s game than what he can do with a bat. Defense has been a bit messier for Starlin, as he has committed 25 errors. You might add a few errors of the mental variety to that total as well. Even in this area, though, I take a great deal of joy. Why, you ask? Well, we have seen some flashes of brilliance (I think that if Starlin keeps it up, he could win gold gloves in the future) and even in the the hiccups there is promise to be seen. Mr. Castro has made mistakes, sure… but you aren’t seeing him make the same ones over and over. Earlier in the year, he took flak for not hustling after a booted ground ball, which allowed the runner to advance an extra base. I haven’t noticed any lack of defensive hustle since that play. You get the feeling that Starlin is taking a lot in, and that he is learning from his mistakes. And in a season as hopeless for the Cubs as this one, his miscues have cost us next to nothing. It’s wonderfully convenient if you look at it from that angle… 2010 is serving as something of a seasoning period for Starlin. I hope it will prove to be a springboard that only propels him to greater success in the future.
The future doesn’t look to shabby for Darlin’ Starlin. And yet, my favorite thing about him is how much I do love watching him play now. This, to me, is the biggest difference between Starlin and the other supposed top prospects the Cubs have produced in recent years. When I’m watching him hit, or run, or throw, I don’t find myself preoccupied with the promise of what he could do… I just enjoy the present.