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Starlin Castro makes a lot of errors.

A man’s defensive ability is not judged by errors, alone, and, indeed, errors are probably a poor measure of defense, overall. But, when you reach the kind of extremes that Castro did last year – and has so far this year – it starts to matter. Don’t take that as an overt criticism of Castro or his defense. As I’ll discuss in a moment, there’s still a great deal of good there.

But, given his struggles, and his expected future (much later in his career, that is) at another position anyway, the calls to move Castro now are becoming louder and more reasonable. From Dave Kaplan, last week:

Castro is a tremendous talent but his defense is far behind his offense and he appears to lack concentration in the field, which is evident in the simple throwing mistakes he has made over the first week-and-a-half of the 2012 season. His bat will be the facet of his game that makes him a star, so why not move him now on a team that does not appear to be a contender?

Darwin Barney is a natural shortstop and would give the Cubs better defense there than Castro does, including better concentration on the routine plays that Castro often makes a mistake on. Castro is an excellent athlete and could make the move to the OF much like Robin Yount did during his stellar career in Milwaukee.

Whether the move comes now or next winter, I believe it is in the Cubs’ best interest to put Castro in a position where he can use his athleticism defensively while he continues to develop into a run-producing hitter who will eventually be one of the best hitters in baseball. However, his defense keeps him from becoming a truly elite player at his position.

It’s a perfectly fair discussion, but I land on the other side of the coin. There are two primary hurdles to moving Castro off of shortstop, and each, alone, is reason enough for me to squash this talk for the foreseeable future.

First, we have to remember that, at 22, Castro’s upside defensively at shortstop remains quite high. Most 22-year-old shortstop are busy piling up huge error totals in A and AA ball. Castro just happens to be doing it in the bigs. Castro has above-average range, and a strong arm. If he didn’t keep making mistakes, he’d be the kind of guy you’d love to have manning shortstop. There is still time for him to become that kind of guy.

Second, Castro’s value at shortstop is almost immeasurably higher than it would be at second base, or, especially, in the outfield. Castro’s offensive ability at shortstop – particularly his upside – is truly elite. It is fully within his grasp to become the best offensive shortstop in baseball. Were he playing in a corner outfield spot (remember, Brett Jackson is ticketed for center field in short order), the Cubs would be hurting themselves twice: their offensive ability at shortstop drops dramatically, and Castro’s offense, while great for shortstop, might be little more than average in left field.

Yes, it can reasonably be argued that the 2012 Cubs are slightly better, for example, with Darwin Barney at shortstop and Starlin Castro at second base (assuming a quick transition between spots was realistic mid-season). I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll credit the argument.

But what about 2013 and beyond? Just as it would be foolish for the Cubs to make roster moves for mere short-term improvements, it would be foolish to change the course of a 22-year-old star shortstop’s long-term future to net short-term (theoretical) gains.

It’s a worthwhile discussion to have, and, with each additional error, the future of Castro’s position becomes more and more in doubt. For now, he should remain at shortstop.

  • When the Music’s Over

    A polar opposite argument can be made: since the Cubs aren’t contending this year, isn’t it the best time to let him learn SS?

    Sidenote: Kaplan is a blowhard.

    • Rick Vaughn

      Exactly what I was thinking. On both notes.

  • Crockett

    Kaplan knows his basketball, but he’s a baseball idiot. On his show on CSN, he’s constantly sounding like a generic forum member with his ludicrous thoughts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cubman87 Leroy Kleimola

    It is interesting to think about. I think a lot of people do forget that he is only 22 years old—very young in baseball terms. I say switch him though. What’s the worst that could happen? Have two Soriano type defenses in the outfield?

    • Jarrod C

      Yes, that IS the worst that could happen. And it would be likely that it WOULD happen. We can’t afford to have two very weak outfielders. The only move that makes sense for me is simply switching the middle infielders. Nothing else makes sense.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cubman87 Leroy Kleimola

        I agree. I was being sarcastic. Sorry I don’t think I made that clear in my post.

      • art

        Castro would be a good OF’er and his offense will only get better, anywhere.

    • art

      Castro has great talent, he’d run rings around Soriano at any position. Soriano never could field.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Anyone who argues that he should be moved from SS at this point is a complete and utter moron.
    Completely. There is no other side to this.

    Anyone who does so is completely ignorant of the historical development of most elite SS.

    • Borocks

      I totally agree ferrets_Bueller!!!!

    • ty

      Bueller-Bueller-Bueller-move to the head of the class!

    • art

      anyone who says he can’t play the OF doesn’t know much.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    If the Cubs do decide Castro has no future at shortstop, they should trade him immediately.  His value will plummet horrifically as soon as he plays regular games at a different position.  As a extremely high upside offensive shortstop he would fetch a tremendous amount in trade.  As a decent corner outfielder with middling to below average offensive potential, he’d net far, far less.

    I have a hard time believing that Kaplan really believes what he wrote.  He’s been around baseball too long to kick a 22 year old shortstop to the side just because he happens to be a 22 year old shortstop.

    I wonder if he would have moved Ozzie Smith to a different position as well, or if he would have objected to Ozzie’s first Gold Glove.  The Wizard didn’t exactly have a low error season that year.

    • When the Music’s Over

      You give Kaplan far, far too much credit. He has such an overblown ego, he constantly spews crap out of his mouth without thinking first.

    • rcleven

      If the Cubs decide to move Castro Teams will be standing in line to pick him up. There aren’t too people who are at the top hitting year after year.

    • Dumpgobbler

      Can you imagine the package of pitchers we could get from the Braves for him?

  • JB

    What were Dunston’s Error Numbers when he first broke in?

  • SirCub

    I think it becomes something to consider when the Cubs’ have a legit ML-ready SS prospect pushing Castro. Darwin Barney is not that guy. If Javier Baez or somebody flies through the system and starts pushing him, then maybe. But as it is, I’m tickled pink to have Starlin out there.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Random, unrelated post: Want to know something absurd? Mike Trout currently has 5 triples….in 19 games. 5. In less than 20 games.

    His slugging percentage? .649. With. Only. One. Homer.
    That kid is ridiculous. I’ve been saying it all along, and repeat it now: Harper isnt in the same class. There is, and has never been, any question as to what prospect I would rather have in all of baseball: its Trout.

    • Myles

      This dude. This dude gets it.

    • ty

      Bueller-Bueller-Valedictorian today. I saw Trout every game of rookie season in Tempe,then instructional league games, and extended spring training since. I watched Harper in two 6 week Arizona Fall League seasons. My money is on Trout over the long haul. He is the coolest kid and the game is just flat easy for him!

    • EvenBetterNews

      I remember when the draft was in it’s infant stages on mlb.tv and he was the only player in the Green Room with all of the GM’s and special guests for each team were the only other people there. No fans. He waited and waited to be picked. He didn’t seem upset, and went nuts when he got picked. The analysts gave him props for being there and hoped more than the usual prospect he would make it. I don’t think there is much doubt anymore. Ever since that, I have followed him. I am as happy for him as I would be a Cub prospect.

    • Corey

      I’ve had this same standpoint since the debate started between Trout and Harper. Harper gets more media attention, which leaves people to believe that he’ll be better. But I’ve never had a doubt that Trout will be the better player. I’m pretty confident that he’ll prove me, and us, right.

  • Jarrod C

    Castro to 2nd, Barney to SS. Barney is a natural SS anyways. It’s that simple.

    • SirCub

      What does it mean to be a “natural” shortstop? As in, Darwin came out of the womb fielding backhand ground balls and making throws across his body? I think what you mean by “natural” is that he is comfortable playing the position. And of course, you only get comfortable playing a position through experience. And guess what? Barney has a lot more experience playing SS than Castro does. Which often happens when you’re 5 years older…

    • ETS

      Barney is a smooth defensive player, but doesn’t have the arm or near the range Castro has. If Castro cut down on errors he would be an immensely better option than Barney.

  • ETS

    We have some depth at short stop but it’s all very young. Baez and Lake would be the two big names and I sincerely think both are more likely to end up at 3rd or the outfield. Heck is lake going to ever stop growing? Admittedly, I haven’t seen Baez play and I know less about his defensive ceiling, but I have read several reports that think he isn’t a long term short stop.

    Castro’s error numbers aren’t that out of line for his age. He just is on a bigger stage than most 22 year olds. I also agree that his value is immeasurably higher at short.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Elliot Soto is playing in Tennessee.  He’d be the first potential shortstop ready to go, but I doubt he’s much more than a younger Darwin Barney.  After that, the next guy likely to stay at short is in Peoria, and you can take your pick between Marco Hernandez (who is struggling badly right now) or Wes Darvill (who may yet wind up on third full time).

      • ETS

        Thanks Luke. I knew you’d fill us in.

        Has Candelario played any middle infield or is he strictly 3rd base?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Strictly third, and a few scouts seem to have concerns over his ability to stay there.  He’s awfully young, though.  It’s a little early to worry about that in his case.

      • ty

        Luke–wait til Wes Darvill turns about 24-25–defense something special. Intangibles that can not be taught..Growth potential though I like bigger shortstops as he will be–

  • Cedlandrum

    Barney will make all the routine plays, but Castro will make 20 plays a year that Barney can’t get to. Is that trade off worth it. I think so. The routine will come for Starlin, the range won’t for Barney.

  • rcleven

    Kaplan must not have seen Barney play short stop in spring. Kaplan must be trying to get a few more hits on the web site. I liked Kaplan but this is just STUPID.

  • hansman1982

    I don’t want to click on the Kaplan link – anyone know what day it was posted? Was it on an off-day?

    Oh Kaplan, this is the kind of stuff that has caused me to not give a rat’s ass about what you say.

    Smith – > 20 errors until age 26
    Ripken – > 20 errors until age 25 (prorating his time at short to a full season for his rookie year)

    I highly doubt this front office moves Castro from SS (unless someone in the system/acquired pushes him) at least until age 25-26 which is still 3-4 years away.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    There is no way Epstein is taking Castro from Short Stop and moving him anywhere else. He will get all the time in the world to grow into the position defensively.

    No need to even discuss it because he won’t be moved.

    We need a flipping 3rd baseman is what we need. Ian Stewart can’t hit for sh*t…. He looks good standing out there at 3rd base but he can’t hit to save his life. He is not the future and he will not be the guy standing out there for very much longer. Vitters will be up manning 3rd base because he can at least hit his weight.

  • cubzfann

    I believe the good thing about the position of shortstop is the fact that it is reasonable and even acceptable to have a player there who has a .300avg with less than 5 homers and 30+ stolen bases a season. You know, a lead off hitter. Jackson is not projected to be an ideal lead off hitter and neither is Castro. With that said, the front office should make sure we have one or get one in our system so he will be ready for 2014. Move Castro to second base where his offensive numbers will still be elite, as will his defense there, and Barney or a journeyman at ss until the chosen youngster is ready.

  • Josh Z

    Keep him at SS!! Baez is moving to 3B and with Vitters struggling yet again he may be the 3B of the future.

  • Dustin S

    Interesting article, I’ve been thinking along these lines since ST…not making the change now with Barney, but putting Junior Lake or Baez at SS (if/when they are ready to come up) and moving Castro either to 2nd or 3rd. With the big standout weak point on the team being offense, it gets the gears working when you start to think about Casto maybe at 2nd, Baez/Lake at SS, and Stewart/Vitters (or get really creative with LaHair or Rizzo) at 3rd.

    The Barney – Castro flip idea doesn’t appeal much to me though. Barney was ok but not great when he has been at SS, plus no sense messing with Castro’s head for little benefit. I’m sure Castro would have fewer errors too if you cut his range in half. I think the consensus for everyone including Cubs management is that Castro’s long-term position probably won’t be at SS unless he develops defensively at a pretty high rate. But that’s the best spot for him right now.

  • Andrew

    can he pitch?

    • Andrew

      I ask if he can pitch because as a former player myself in the little leagues I would often times pitch the first four innings then catch the fifth and play short stop the sixth inning unless we 10 run ruled the other team before then. Oh also, I made the allstar team every single year but only because my dad was the coach.

    • Joe

      I appreciate the out of the box thinking, but why would we care if he can pitch? Dude hits. Pitchers don’t hit. You don’t put a bat like his on the shelf for four days out of five! :-P

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    If they move Castro, I would think 3B would be the first choice…not outfield. He can still be a pretty special player at 3B….just more like the Wade Boggs model instead of the Mike Schmidt model.

  • bob

    Ozzie Smith made 25, 20, and 24 errors his first 3 years, and he started at age 23. Way too early to think that Castro won’t develop.

  • Cubs Dude

    I agree that to even think of moving Castro at this point is ridiculous. Come on Kaplan. Weak… He is waaaaaaay less valuable at any other position, espeically outfielder. Obviously, the tools are there. Although, he does look like he loses concentration out there. And he seem out of it at times. I think if he can channel that wondering mind, he has greatness in his future defensively at short.

  • ty

    Junior Lake and Starlin Castro are so similar in range, arm srength, and even how they stroke the ball. They played all rookie season together rotating between third and short–sometimes second. Neither has accomplished double plays as routine–always an adventure. Starlin has commented that Junior is just as good as him–and just like kids on a playground they know. Emotionally Junior is more of a task for coaches.

  • die hard

    I should sue Kaplan for plagarism as he quoted exactly what I said 2 months ago about Castro and Barney…Imagine what Castro would hit without burden of this most demanding position…stick him in OF as I have been pleading for ad nauseum

    • Eric

      dude, you ARE kaplan. Give it up man, we know it’s you, you meathead.

  • Ivy Walls

    This is a cornerstone decision and does not need to be made soon. Castro must show each month he is improving in defensive fundamentals necessary to succeed at the top defensive position in the field. Next Barney is not the long term answer either so forget it, whether Castro is moved to 2B (moving the same problem to just a statistically less chance position is no answer) and moving him to the OF where the Cubs have organizational depth is no answer either, moving him to 3B is a real choice but again with Lake, Baer and Vitters there the Cubs have organizational depth as well.

    Now I would change if the Cubs traded Soto and Barney for Hak Lee and a pitcher than by all means move Castro to 2B but then again that is radical.

  • EB

    This topic inspired me to do some research on the number of errors past Gold Glove shortstops made at the age of 21 compared to Starlin Castro. I have taken the number of games that each player made and divided it by the number of errors they made that same year to get and Error per Game ratio.  At 21, Starlin Castro made 29 E in 158 Games, which comes out to 1 E every 5.45 Games.  The following is the list from best to worst.

    1. Cal Ripken Jr. ( 2 Gold Gloves):  1E/7.23 G  (13 E–94 G)
    2. Edgar Renteria (2 Gold Gloves):  1 E/6.45 G  (20 E–129 G)
    3. Mark Belanger (6 Gold Gloves):  1E/5.95 G  (21 E–125 G)
    4. Alex Rodriguez (2 Gold Gloves):  1E/5.83 G  (24 E–140 G)
    5. Alan Trammell (4 Gold Gloves):  1E/5.46 G  (26 E–142 G)
    6. Starlin Castro (0 Gold Gloves):  1E/5.45 G  (29 E–158 G)
    7. Omar Vizquel (11 Gold Gloves):  1 E/5.36 G  (25 E–134 G)
    8. Jimmy Rollins (3 Gold Gloves):  1 E/5.08 G  (26 E–132 G)
    9. Derek Jeter (5 Gold Gloves):  1 E/4.45 G (31 E–138 G)
    10. Tony Fernandez (4 Gold Gloves):  1 E/4.27 G (26 E–111 G)
    11. Erick Aybar (2011 AL Gold Glove):  1 E/4.19 G  (32 E–134 G)
    12. Barry Larkin (3 Gold Gloves):  1 E/4.18 G  (17 E–71 G)
    13. Troy Tulowitzki (2 Gold Gloves-2010&2011):  1 E/4.08 G  (25 E–102 G)
    14. Orlando Cabrera (2 Gold Gloves):  1 E/3.94 G  (17 E–67 G)
    15. Dave Concepcion (5 Gold Gloves):  1 E/3.43 G  (35 E–120 G)
    16. Ozzie Smith–Age 22– (13 Gold Gloves):  1 E/2.82 G  (23 E–65 G)

    Cal Ripken Jr.– Although he led this list at age 21, he made 25 Errors at age 22 and 26 Errors at age 23 and age 24.

    Edgar Renteria– Made 26 Errors at age 22 and 27 Errors at age 23

    Omar Vizquel– Made 25 Errors in 109 Games at age 20

    Jimmy Rollins– Made 22 Errors in 133 Games at age 20

    Derek Jeter– Made 25 Errors in 138 Games at age 20, 56(!!) Errors in 126 Games at age 19, 22 Errors in 157 Games at age 22

    Tony Fernandez– Made 26 Errors at age 22 and 30 Errors at age 23

    Erick Aybar– Made 32 Errors in 132 Games at age 20

    Barry Larkin– Made 17 Errors in 91 Games at age 22

    Orlando Cabrera– Made 28 Errors in 117 Games at age 22

    Dave Concepcion– Made 22 Errors in 93 Games at age 22

    Ozzie Smith– He played 1 year in the minors at age 22 (listed above); Made 25 Errors at age 23 and 24 Errors at age 24, the same year in which he won his first Gold Glove

    Starlin Castro– Made 27 Errors in 123 Games at age 20 and 39 Errors in 119 Games at age 19

    In conclusion, I believe the statistics say that it is extremely common for young shortstops to make large numbers of errors whether playing in the minors or majors.

     

     

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If I’m to understand those numbers correctly … Castro is, like, awesome.

      • EB

        Haha well assuming his error rates trend downward in coming seasons like the others, he should be! All I was trying to say was that what has happened to Castro is not the least bit uncommon at his age, and that his numbers are perhaps actually “good” for his age

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        That’s what the pros and the scouts have been saying.  It seems only the fans and the media are worried about the guy at all.

        I wonder how much of that is the difference in era.  How many newspapers were regularly printing Ozzie Smith’s error totals during his rookie season, as opposed to talking up his great plays?  Thanks to the internet, every number can be over-analyzed by everyone and, at times, it turns into a bit of a feeding frenzy.

        • EB

          That is a very good point, Luke. The media has turned this into a huge issue. It seems like every time I watch baseball tonight or another team’s broadcast of a game, they talk about how great of a hitter he is, but also how many errors he makes, how his glove is holding him back, and how lazy and “disinterested” he looks in the field

          • Ogyu

            Point taken. Nonetheless, I suspect that nobody ever accused Ozzie Smith of looking lazy and disinterested in the field.

            • farmerjon

              Does anybody else think ADD? Perhaps medication could help with his focus related issues in the field…

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Definitely an A+ for effort!

      • EB

        Thanks, Norm

    • Joe

      Fantastically helpful! I’d waffled about how I feel about Castro’s errors… consider me soothed. Thanks for all the effort digging this up and laying it out for us!

      • EB

        No problem. I really wanted to know for myself, so I thought I’d put it on here for everyone to see

    • DocPeterWimsey

      This is a great summary.  The only thing that I’d add is that Castro probably looks better when you take range into account.  For example, Ripken had a low error rate per game, but he also got to a fewer balls; so, his putout rate per game probably was also lower than Castro’s.

      • EB

        Thanks, Doc that is a great point

        • chris margetis

          I think this goes back to the metric conversaton we had the other day which was, if you get to X percent more balls that the average SS, doesn’t that offset a certain percentage of errors over the overage? Example is you get to 50 more balls that the average SS but make 15 more errors, aren’t you actually much better than the average SS because you’ve made 35 more plays (assuming the overwhelming majority of those plays are outs) that presumably would be hits against the average SS?

  • Derek

    What about the fact that he is a young infield captian on a losing team. I would bet if they where winning he would be more into the game. Im not saying his distractions are okay because we are losing. Im just saying its always better to win. Once he sees how it feels to be on a wnning team we will see his full focus in the game and after that Gold Golve Galore

  • DocPeterWimsey

    This is going to repeat some things written before, but I want to rephrase it.  Baseball is about outscoring the other team.  To this end, an individual player’s contribution (and value) is based on how many more (or fewer) runs he creates as a batter relative to other guys who play the same position  (here, SS) minus how many more (or fewer) runs he prevents as a field relative to those same players.  There are two immediate upshots.  1) Move Castro to the OF and he is going to create fewer additional runs relative to other OFers; 2) Even with his errors, Castro does not allow so many more runs as a fielder as to put a dent in how many more runs he creates as a batter.

    The Yankees won a lot with Derek Jeter at SS.  The Orioles had good teams with Ripken playing SS.  Both allowed more runs than other SS not so much because of errors, but because they didn’t get to balls that other SS’s did field.  This is not to say that fielding does not matter: but any level of competence more than supports Castro’s bat.

  • ty

    Do not mess around media or we bring out the big bleacher nation guns and blow your ass out of the water.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It happens for other teams, too.  People want Posey and Mauer moved from catcher because catching is dangerous.  However, put those guys in LF and all of a sudden, POSEY! goes to Posey……

      • ferrets_bueller

        Posey could still have quite a bit of value elsewhere. Mauer, however…..absolutely not. Actually, I think Mauer is the perfect comparison to Castro.

        • JustSwain

          They are actually experimenting with giving Mauer time at First Base, and as DH. He’s only caught 11 games so far this year. Mauer is the Twins franchise player in more ways than one. He draws fans, especially the ladies. The Twins are sick of him missing 40 games a season to injury so they are trying to be easy on his knees. Mauer and Castro are both line drive hitters who bat well for average with a bit of pop, so I can see the comparison.

      • WGNstatic

        I don’t completely agree when it comes to catchers, particularly in the case of a guy like Mauer who is making big money.

        Is Joe Mauer an overpaid and average 1B or DH? absolutetly, but that is far better than an outstanding catcher on the DL.

  • supergeek24

    Castro stays at ss. On a side note it would be cool to trade garza and whoever for trout and trumbo the angles have no room for them and they are in win now mode

    • JustSwain

      I don’t think that’s happening.

  • supergeek24

    I know but it would be so cool

    • JustSwain

      Who knows what those kookie Angels are going to do. I don’t know if I’d call what they are doing win now mode. They have 75million dollars in payroll commited to 4 players…in 2016.

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