One of the biggest ‘questions’ for the Chicago Cubs this season is 23-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro. After being named an All-Star in two consecutive seasons – 2011 and 2012, respectively – he struggled during most of the 2013 campaign. There is a lot of pressure on Castro to do well this year (offensively and defensively), and young prospects quickly rising through the organization – like Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara – are not making things any easier for him. With all of the attention being put on Castro, maybe a move to the outfield can help ease some of the pressure off of both himself and the team. Here are some reasons why a move to the outfield might be beneficial.
How can Castro improve on his career .961 fielding percentage? Possibly by moving to the outfield.
He is still a young player who has a lot of room to grow, but his defensive miscues have gotten Cubs fans riled up over the last four seasons (105 errors in four seasons is far less than pretty). It isn’t that Castro is a horrible defender – he has made several impressive plays with his glove and arm over the course of his career. The problem is that he turns many seemingly routine ground balls into errors.
Most of Castro’s fielding errors come from either booting ground balls, or hurrying an assist attempt and throwing the ball away. A lot of Castro’s errors come from rushed plays – taking his eyes off the ball too soon, making a hurried throw, etc. – and by moving him to the outfield, the feeling of needing to rush a play is diminished. A move to the outfield would also give Castro a chance to utilize his speed and strong arm.
Opportunity to rest
Castro has led the team in games played in each of the last three seasons, and has already played more than 600 games in his short four year career. With the Cubs already expecting to have at least four outfielders on the big league roster (Nate Scheirholtz, Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, and Justin Ruggiano), Castro would be able to get a day off every once in a while. That could help clear his head and keep him focused throughout the season.
Who would play at shortstop?
The better question here is ‘who wouldn’t play at shortstop?’ There are already a number of guys on the big league roster who have experience playing the position. Darwin Barney and Junior Lake were brought up through the minors as shortstops, but both switched positions due to Castro’s presence in Chicago. Other guys on the roster – Donnie Murphy, Luis Valbuena, Logan Watkins – also have a considerable amount of experience playing shortstop. Donnie Murphy was the starting shortstop at Triple-A Iowa before being called up last August.
The Cubs could also decide not to use any of those guys at shortstop. Castro moving to the outfield would open up a roster spot (theoretical apology to Ruggiano), which could be filled by either Javier Baez or Arismendy Alcantara if they impress the organization enough during spring training. Baez would likely stick at short, which would keep Barney at second base and the probable Valbuena/Murphy platoon at third. Alcantara can play both second base and shortstop, so he and Barney could fill either spot up the middle.
Impact on other prospects
Castro moving to the outfield would not really hurt anybody. The only big name outfield prospects that they have coming up are Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, with Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters (remember them?) on the fringe. There has also been talk of moving Baez to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, so Castro’s move would let those two guys focus more on their current positions. In that case, a two-for-one deal (one player switching positions opposed to two) doesn’t sound too bad.
If all of their prospects pan out according to the famous ‘plan,’ the Cubs could have a future lineup that looks something like this:
C – Welington Castillo
1B – Anthony Rizzo
2B – Arismendy Alcantara/Darwin Barney
3B – Kris Bryant
SS – Javier Baez
OF – Starlin Castro, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler
Utility man – Junior Lake
Is this a likely move?
The team has already stated that Castro is their shortstop, and Baez is likely going to be given playing time at second and third base this spring. Is this something that could happen? Not right now, anyway. With the organization’s infield prospects coming up quicker than the outfielders it is definitely something to consider for the future, perhaps as soon as later on this season.