2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: How Good Is Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro?

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: How Good Is Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro?
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Chicago Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro is 8-for-13 (.615) with four runs and one RBI through three games this season, and already has the fantasy baseball community buzzing over his potential.

Castro’s 2011 spring totals turned some heads last month, as he displayed surprising power: 66 at-bats, 14 runs, nine XBH (four HRs), 15 RBI, two steals, .348/.386/.621.

Fresh off an impressive rookie season which saw him hit .300 in 463 at-bats, the question must be asked: How good is Starlin Castro?

The Cubs signed the Dominican Republic native at the tender age of 16 in 2006. After holding his own (.305 average) in two seasons of rookie ball, he skipped low Class A and jumped straight to high Class A in 2009.

One year later, he became the first major league player born in the 1990’s. The Cubs always believed he had All-Star potential, but they never thought he’d be this good so quickly.

In four seasons in the minors, Castro amassed nine HRs, 51 steals and a .310 batting average in 995 at-bats.

In his first taste of the big leagues in 2010, the 20-year-old more than held his own, batting .300/.347/.408 with 54 runs, three HRs, 41 RBI and 10 steals in 463 at-bats.

Further, he hit more doubles (31) than Derek Jeter and Hanley Ramirez, and came up just one two-bagger short of Troy Tulowitzki’s season mark of 32.

While this is certainly more than anyone could have ever asked of the now 21-year-old, expectations should be kept in check—for now.

Castro’s contact rate (85.9 percent) and ground ball rate (51.3 percent) explain his elevated BABIP (.346) last season, thus justifying his .300 batting clip.

A high average will likely carry over into 2011, but his single-digit power will limit the Cubs’ No. 2 hitter in his run-scoring and run-producing opportunities.

For this season, he’s my 12th ranked shortstop. His future prospects, however, are much more promising.

Since his pro debut in rookie ball in 2007, Castro has increased his number of extra base hits each season:

  • 2007 (Dominican Summer League): 10 XBHs in 253 PAs
  • 2008 (Arizona Fall League): 19 XBHs in 215 PAs
  • 2009 (High A and Double-A): 32 XBHs in 509 PAs
  • 2010 (Double-A and MLB): 53 XBHs in 627 PAs

Though his power production remains limited, there is reason to believe Castro will develop double-digit power as his body matures. He’s probably at least a few years away from doing that, however.

Derek Jeter—a player Castro has been compared to—didn’t hit more than 10 HRs in the majors until he was 24.

Castro’s plus-speed has the potential to help fantasy teams now, but his base running skills still need work:

  • 2007 (Dominican Summer League): 13-for-15 (87 percent)
  • 2008 (Arizona Fall League): 6-for-11 (55 percent)
  • 2009 (High A and Double-A): 28-for-39 (72 percent)
  • 2010 (Double-A and MLB): 14-for-27 (52 percent)

Castro did swipe 10 bags with the Cubs last season, but was also caught eight times. Given his continued development, he could push for 20 steals this season.

Assuming Castro’s lineup protection—which includes a healthy Aramis Ramirez and the newly-acquired Carlos Pena—holds up, he could be in line for 80 runs in 2011.

While Castro’s potential is exciting (as a Cubs fan, I’m stoked), it’s important to remember he’s still five to six years from reaching his prime.

Perhaps 15-20 HR power will develop, but it probably wont happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, Castro should serve as a valuable option at shortstop with the ability to post 80 runs, single-digit HRs, 55 RBI, 20 steals and a .290-.300 batting average in his sophomore season.

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