The Chicago Cubs had very little to look forward to entering the 2012 season.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein made it clear that the Cubs would be going through a rough patch that could last at least a couple of seasons.
Cubs fans understand how long it could take to rebuild a baseball team from the ground up.
But the realization starts to set in when fans watch a team go 61-101 to have one of the worst records in franchise history.
But not all is bad on the north side of Chicago.
The Cubs have one of the best farm teams in MLB and prospects who are expected to lead this team in the near future. The future looks bright for a team dogged by the long rebuilding process.
Young stars on the Cubs' roster such as Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler will be building blocks for a roster overhaul. Possible faces of a franchise that is starved for star power.
One of the Cubs' brightest stars, Starlin Castro, is expected to lead this team into the playoffs and possibly to a World Series.
Castro has always been touted as the Cubs' best prospect and one of the better players to build a team around.
The 22-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic has all the necessary skills to be an elite player in MLB. While still young and with much to learn, Castro shows exceptional talent in his ability to hit and read the game.
Not many players have that ability, and that is what makes Castro the Cubs' most important player for the future.
Make no mistake, it takes a team to make the playoffs and contend for a championship. But it also takes a star player or two to give that team and extra push toward a World Series.
Castro is a franchise player, one that the Cubs' organization needs in order to successfully rebuild in the next two years.
In August, the Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year, $60 million extension that takes him to 2019. The extension shows the confidence that the Cubs' organization has in him to be the face of the franchise.
Yeah, I'm the face of the franchise. But I'm not going to stop playing hard or stop working hard. I know the money will be there for me and my family, and will make a better life for us.
The shortstop continued by saying that money won't be his main focus:
When you have everything, the money and all that, you don't take anything for granted. You know that you have everything because of baseball. I'm not going to get lazy because of (the money). That's why every day I play harder and harder and harder.
It's admirable to hear that Castro only wants to get better even after having a stellar first three seasons with the Cubs.
He is the youngest member of the Chicago Cubs to get his 200th base hit. Castro was also the youngest player ever to lead the National League in hits with 207.
But for as good as Starlin Castro has been over his three seasons, he also has a few things that need improvement.
First and foremost, Castro has to be more efficient at being a shortstop. The 2011 season saw Castro lead all MLB shortstops in errors with 29.
His inability to field the ball sometimes has gotten on Cubs manager Dale Sveum's back
Sveum would sit Castro for this "mental" errors in judgement and for sometimes just plain lazy play.
I got to finish strong, because it’s not me, hitting like .270. I got to get going, because I’m not this kind of hitter. I don’t know what happened, but I keep working really hard and we’ll see what happens these last 20 games.
Call it a slump that a young player can break out of with a little patience and a lot of training.
The point at which he is able to excel at both aspects of the game will be when Castro becomes an elite player.
Whatever the future might bring for this budding superstar, one thing is for sure. In order for the Chicago Cubs to be successful, Starlin Castro has to become the star that everyone hopes he can be.
Until then, fans will have to endure lost seasons due to the rebuilding process.
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