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Let’s be frank: Starlin Castro had a disastrous game last night. His miserable defensive second inning largely cost the Cubs the game, and he went 0-5 with four left on base. It was probably the worst game of his young career. And you’d be right if you said his other games in the three hole haven’t gone much better.

Starlin Castro and batting third has been, to date, an ugly marriage where he’s done more to hurt the team than help it.

And there’s absolutely no reason to move him in the batting order.

I know what you’re thinking: Ace, you went on a Marlon Byrd three-hole tirade for lesser offenses. How can you possibly be advocating keep Castro there when he’s clearly unsuited?

Simple. There’s no where else to put him. For now.

Not what you usually hear about the guy you want hitting in the most important spot in the lineup. Usually, a guy is in the three hole because he’s *the* guy. Right now, Castro might very well be *the* guy, but I’m not convinced. And that’s not the reason he should continue hitting in the three hole for now.

The reason is simply lineup construction. First, for those clamoring to have Castro back in the leadoff spot: did you blink every time Kosuke Fukudome batted last night? Fukudome went 5-5, and we all know it was no fluke. Not only does he do this every single April/May, but this year, he’s off to his best start ever: he’s batting .478 with a .571 OBP. If that’s not the guy you want setting the table and getting the most at bats on your team, then we’ll just have to shake hands and part ways. Yes, Fukudome will cool – considerably. But, until he does, he’s got to be the guy leading off (against righties). For now.

How about putting Castro back in the second spot? Well, here’s the thing on that: Darwin Barney has been quite good there. He’s got a .320/.350/.440 slash line to go with the kind of situational approach (last night’s ill-advised swing-and-pop-up with men on first and second and no outs notwithstanding) that is well-suited for the two hole. And, while he’s succeeding in the job, he should remain there. For now.

After one and two, the only realistic options for Castro are somewhere around seven and eight, because he doesn’t yet have the power you’d like to see in the middle of your lineup (query whether Byrd or Carlos Pena have the power either right now, but whateves). Do you really want to see Castro bumped to the bottom of the lineup?

That’s why the spot that continues to make the most sense for Castro, and for this lineup, is third. He’s still one of the best hitters on this team, and whatever discomfort or additional pressure he might feel batting third will fade. Indeed, he might be feeling no such discomfort or pressure at all – his recent struggles could simply be the normal cool period following a scorching hot start.

And, of all the Cubs, when you consider whom you’d like to see getting the most at bats, isn’t that Starlin Castro? Then, if he’s not going to be batting one or two, it’s got to be three, right?

I’m not saying that Castro should be the number three hitter in perpetuity. In fact, I fully expect that Fukudome will cool, Barney will revert to his minor league career averages, and there will be two better choices for Castro in the lineup. But until those things happen, Castro should remain in the three hole.

And I’m definitely not saying that Castro is yet a prototypical three-hole hitter. But, when I look up and down the lineup, and think about how it all fits together, I’m not convinced that Castro shouldn’t just stay in the three hole.

Say it with me: for now.

  • JK

    Am I the only one who thinks Castro isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread? He defense sucks. He should have stayed in the minors to mature and work on his game. After his 3 errors, which isn’t the first time he has made 3 in one game, he acted like it was no big deal and even smirking. It was as annoying as Ramirez watching after he hits a ball instead of running.

    • wax_eagle

      The fact that he is 21, playing every day in the majors with some competency and tearing the cover off of the ball should more than make up for the occasional blown inning or game from inexperienced defense.

      Why would you want him in the minors when the best coaches will be at the major league level. If he has the bat to play everyday with the big club why artificially repress his development in the minors.

      I realize his defense is frustrating, but the kid is pretty much an all star already, why would you keep that in the minors?

    • wax_eagle

      Also, I want him acting like 3 errors in an inning is no big deal. The kid knows he screwed up. He can’t do anything about that right now, all he can do is keep a proper atitude, stay loose and try to help with his bat. Obviously that wasn’t working for him either last night. But he can’t sit there and hang his head about it.

      • Ace

        Kind of agree.

  • Cheryl

    I had thought about switching Castro back to first and having Fuku bat third, but I can see your reasoning on keeping him on third. But if he has another week like the last few days, I’d still switch him back to first and put Fuku in the three hole.

  • @AaronHaag

    I like the article. Castro should leadoff against lefties. As to Pena, he is as notoriously aweful in April/May as Fuk is amazing. Water will level in baseball and the eventual lineup (Castro/Barney/Pena/Ramy/Byrd/Soriano/Fukudome/Soto)* will be servicable and may give us some hope. This depends of course on whether or not the starting pitching will cooperate.

    *Could look like this as well(Castro/Colvin/Pena/Ramy/Byrd/Soriano/Barney/Soto) Of course if Barney drops to the 8 spot it will come with a platoon with Baker. Anybody else frustrated by all of the RR and LL platoons our roster offers?

    • Ace

      Agreed on leading off against lefties, though Baker would be a fine option as well.

  • TSB

    A guy is batting .393, and people are worried about where to play him? Play him anywhere, and he’ll contribute.
    As far as Starlin’s defense, let’s get back to the basics; this is a glove, the ball is supposed to go in it.

    • Ace

      We’re worried about where to bat him much in the same way that the Cardinals give thought to where Albert Pujols will bat. If they were batting him 8th (or 9th – it is LaRussa, after all), would you say “why worry about where to bat him, he’ll contribute anywhere” or would you say “why the hell is the best batter hitting 8th?”

      It matters where you hit the good hitters just as much as it matters where you hit the bad ones.

  • Bill

    I would leave Castro/Barney at the top. They look like they could be the top of the order the next 5 years. I think switching him around won’t work out, and he doesn’t seem comfortable or as good a fit in the three hole. Sure Fukudome is hot now, but he NEVER stays hot, which will leave a hole in the leadoff spot in a matter of weeks. You can’t base an arguement on Fukie being 5-5 one night – as one night doesn’t make a trend. Fukie falling off the map in the 2nd half of the season is a trend.

    The problem is – we have no 3 hitter. Don’t try and make Castro fit the role, when he seems so comfortable leading off. We haven’t had a solid leadoff hitter day in and day out for awhile, Castro can be that guy for 5 or 6 years. If his power really develops, then move him, right now it just puts pressure on him to swing for the fences and we risk losing a good thing making him into something he isn’t. Perhaps Hendry can get a 3 hitter in the offseason, provided he stop signing the Milton Bradleys and Carlos Penas of the world (not to mention the Aaron Miles, Kevin Greggs…………..why is he still a GM??)

    • @AaronHaag

      The only thing I disagree with you about is that Castro is 21. I hope he is our leadoff hitter for 10 years. The defense will come. This kid is the real deal.

    • Kenny L.

      Ace didn’t base Fukudome in the leadoff spot on one 5-5 night. He based it on his over .500 OBP. You even said he could keep doing that for a matter of weeks. Why would you not ride that out?

    • Ace

      I agree that the primary problem is that the team lacks a true 3-hitter (or true 4-hitter, depending on how you view Ramirez), but wanting Fuk to lead off is not JUST about his 5 for 5 night; that was just an example. The guy is killing it right now, and getting on base better than anyone in baseball. That’s a leadoff hitter in my book.

      Castro isn’t a long-term leadoff hitter, according to most. His body will continue to fill out, and the power will develop. His future, assuming development, is as a number 3 hitter.

  • Hogie

    Isn’t Brett Jackson supposed to be the leadoff of the future for the Cubs? If this turns out to be the way Barney hits (far off possibility, I know), Castro might have to be in a production spot for years to come.

    • Hogie

      Next years lineup could look like this:

      Jackson
      Barney
      Castro
      Fielder/Pujols
      Soto
      Colvin/Byrd
      Soriano
      (some in house third base option who impresses in spring-i.e. Vitters, Gonzalez, Flaherty, ect.)

  • awesome

    i say just leave him in one spot, stop batting him all over the place. if it’s 3rd, fine.

  • TSB

    The Cubs need to be creative in their batting order. the standard rule that you put your power guys 3-4-5 only works if you have consistent powers guys. The Cubs anemic home run total (with the exception of Soriano) shows this. The cubs need to manufacture runs, not wait for the big bomb (those were the days). Whoever is hot, bats 1-2-3. It may be Castro, or Fukedome, or even Barney. Sure, it might take two singles to knock in a run, but it’s better than waiting for the HR that never comes.

  • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

    We don’t have a 3 hitter.
    Check.
    We do have a lead off hitter who is young and in my opinion will most likely benefit from the comfort of knowing where he’ll be hitting the vast majority of the time this season.
    We all know how important the mental/emotional aspect of this game is and how easy it is to frustrate a kid into inconsistency and eventual mediocrity.
    This year Castro is a lead off hitter, and he probably will be one for the next couple.
    I’d rather see a rotating door of whoever else is hot (Fukodome for now) there and let Castro thrive where he is obviously more comfortable at he moment.

    • pfk

      Amen!

  • Wickit

    I disagree he will be the Leadoff hitter until Brett Jackson is brought up.

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