Have you ever found yourself reading a book, begin to turn the page and realize you can’t remember reading anything on the page? Starlin Castro has that same experience while playing the field and running the bases. Unfortunately, for all of the offensive value Castro brings to the Cubs, he takes some of that away with his lack of focus and defense. From what I have read, this behavior was seen long before he made the major leagues.
Last year, Castro appeared in all 162 games. I find it hard to believe that he’ll play in every game this year, that’s why I’m projecting him to only play in 145. Not a significant decrease, but enough to give him a rest every few weeks.
Offensively among shortstops, Castro ranks third in hits and ninth in home runs. But, he ranks fourteenth in walk rate and eleventh in strike out rate. Castro is not an on-base guy and should be batted in the middle of the order where his power numbers will help the Cubs.
Defensively, Castro leaves much to be desired. He ranked 14 out of 21 shortstops in UZR with a -1.0. His ErrR, or error runs, is dead last with a -5.0. This means he is five runs below average, compared to other fielders, given the same distribution of balls in play. It would have been nice to see Alan Trammel work with him for a few more seasons to help him progress, but now that will be left up to David Bell.
In the end, I have to remind myself that Starlin Castro is only twenty-two years old. This kid is playing the game at a high level when most players are in A or AA. He’ll continue to progress as he gets older and I would think eventually move to second base. In the mean time, I’ll have to tolerate him forgetting that there are less than two outs when he runs the bases or doesn’t turn a double play.
After a record-breaking defensive season that resulted in his first Gold Glove, Darwin Barney doesn’t have a lot of room for improvement defensively. However, Barney finished 2012 in the bottom half of nearly every offensive category amongst second basemen. It would be nice to think that maybe he has made adjustments; maybe this year will be different. But, now at age 27 and starting his third full season with the Cubs, it seems that Barney is who he is. For this reason, I’m not even running a projection on Barney. I’m just using his 2012 stats:
On another note, die-hard Darwin Barney fans should watch as much of him as they can this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if Barney is traded after this year. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2017. By 2015 or 2016, Cub fans should be seeing an infield made up of Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, and Arismendy Alcantara. If Barney can repeat his defensive showcase from last year, other teams would love to trade for a guy that they have control of for three more seasons.
This is the most exciting preview of any that I’ll do this Spring. In fact, this might be the only exciting one. Anthony Rizzo is going to continue to progress this year and surpass Starlin Castro as the face of the Cubs franchise. I have no idea who will play first when Rizzo isn’t standing there, but that isn’t going to be more than 20-25 games.
Again, I ran a simple linear projection for Rizzo and it is in the table below.
I feel that the runs, hits, home runs, and RBI’s are projecting low. This projection assumes that Rizzo performs at the same rate as last year, and that won’t happen. I feel all of his power numbers will be up, and because of that, his average will go down. I also believe he’ll have fewer walks and more strike outs, but he’ll be crushing the ball. Looking at Rotochamp, they also see Rizzo’s power numbers going up.
Defensively, it would be nice to see Rizzo build on what he was starting to build last year. He had a 5.3 Fangraphs UZR last year in 730+ innings. Among players with 730+ innings, he ranked 7th last year in the majors. He will also need to continue to dig out throws from Darwin Barney and Castro.
Overall, Anthony Rizzo will be the guy to watch for Cub fans this year. It will be fun to see pitchers make adjustments and him to reciprocate. I’m interested to see how his body holds up over an entire season and how he reacts to hitting slumps. Given that the Cubs are going nowhere this year, he’ll have every opportunity to learn the position and adjust to major league pitching.