Chicago Cubs Trying to Fix the Error of Starlin Castro's Ways
What do you do when you have a young talent who has a great hit tool but makes more errors than a weatherman's forecast? And is run prevention as important as run production?
It would be easy to say that he needs to move off of shortstop, but that is not only too simplistic of a solution, it may not be a solution at all. Not only would they have to find a position he can play well, but they would be reducing his value since he plays a premium defensive position.
He is too inexperienced to be given up on now, for good shortstops are so hard to find. The Cubs need to continue to work with Castro and make absolutely sure before they move him to second or third base.
Look, a lot of Castro's errors come on throws, and there are long throws from third base. And second base is no picnic, either. Making the pivot on the double play is an important skill and who's to say that Castro can handle that?
Meanwhile, Dale Sveum and his staff realize that the job in front of them is a critical one, for Castro is the Cubs shining light in an otherwise dismal rebuilding period. Getting him to cut down on his mistakes is a challenging, yet necessary effort.
The new "Cubs Way" focuses on defense. But Castro makes some delicious stops on balls hit to his right, and often travels a long way to tackle pop-ups that his predecessors could never reach. He does all that in between errors, which he makes a lot of.
Castro is only 22 years old, so he requires patience. Still, in 290 games, he has made 60 errors.
Now, errors and fielding percentage aren't necessarily valid ways to measure defensive value. Players who have better range get to more balls so it's not uncommon for them to make more errors.
But at some point it has to get better—the errors have to be reduced. Hopefully, the work they're doing with Castro pays off and he improves. If not, you know he will play somewhere, as his bat is just too good for him to sit on the bench.
Castro is the only "star" on Sveum's current roster, though Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson should be joining him at some point this season. But he won't be the poster boy for what the new Cubs are trying to do, as they stress defense and on-base percentage, two of the weak spots in his game.
But the thing that makes me concerned is that many of his errors aren't due to mechanical issues, which can be cleaned up. They are due to lapses of concentration.
We all painfully recall last season when, on national TV, Bobby Valentine noticed that Castro had his back turned on a play. That lack of concentration is not only embarrassing, it cannot be tolerated, no matter how old or how good a player is.
And those kinds of things certainly aren't part of the Cubs Way. If this kind of stuff is allowed to continue, the danger is that other players will see this and figure that it's no big deal.
But it is a big deal. Shortstop is the most critical defensive position on the field. It was encouraging to see that former major league SS Mariano Duncan worked closely with Castro during the offseason in the Dominican Republic. They say that Castro is very coachable, so there is hope for better days.
But what Castro needs is specific instruction on what he needs to change and hopefully this is where Sveum and his staff will sine, as opposed to Mike Quade and Lou Piniella, who always just said he's young and needs to focus. That's fine, but it's not very helpful to the kid. I prefer Sveum's approach, pointing out specific changes, such as keeping his head still while throwing to first base, stuff like that.
So how long can the Cubs put up with the errors? Well, I'd say that the potential payoff is too great not to give it at least one more full season before even thinking about moving Castro to another position. If he does improve, it will make him one of the best players in the game, since there are so few shortstops can play good defense and hit the way Castro can hit the ball.
Meanwhile, there may be a batting title or two in the kid's future. But a gold glove? That remains to be seen. We'll take league average. With his bat, that should be plenty good enough.
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