By almost all measures, Starlin Castro’s rookie season was a success. He hit well enough for shortstop, he ran the bases adequately, and he provided a spark (back when providing a spark still mattered). Defensively, he showed flashes of brilliance, but bookended the brilliance with throws that eluded the grasp of even an excellent (and gigantic) first baseman.
That’s why the Cubs have sent Castro to do some work in the Dominican Winter League. Sure, he’ll play in some instructional games, but for the most part, he’s going to be working on his defense.
But the Cubs want to make sure he’s ready defensively, and sent infield coach Ivan DeJesus to the academy for one week of tutoring earlier this month, followed by another week with Minor League infield instructor Franklin Font, who finished his lessons last Friday.
Castro told reporters in the Dominican that he was going to play a few weeks ago, but instead was limited to defensive drills. The focus, after making 27 errors in his first year, was on his throwing.
“I know what I have to do,” he said about playing shortstop. “I have to take it easy, take my time, recognize the speed of the runner. I’m ready.”
Castro is still 20 — he turns 21 in March — but he’s gained 10 to 15 pounds of muscle and a lot of experience. cubs.com.
Many still believe that Castro’s long-term future is at second base, but no one doubts he has the potential to be a good, if not great, defensive shortstop. And his bat, of course, will always look better at shortstop than second base.
Part of the calculus will be the development of Hak-Ju Lee, whose ceiling defensively is much higher at shortstop than Castro’s, but he’s still a couple of years off. So, to that end, it can’t hurt to have Castro trying to become the best shortstop he can be.