To hear Theo Epstein – yes, who’s done a whole lotta talkin’ the last few days (and that’s a good thing) – talk about Starlin Castro, you’d think the Cubs are sitting on the next best player in all of baseball.
And maybe they are.
“Being around him now and seeing the kind of kid that he is and seeing some of the progress that he’s made defensively, (I) actually have even more conviction about his importance to us and the fact that we’re going to build with him and build around him in a certain sense,” Epstein said Wednesday on ‘The Waddle & Silvy Show’ about Castro. “He is 22. To me the biggest issue coming in to the season was can he play major league shortstop? We felt like he was gifted enough physically to do it, and he would have to make a few fundamental adjustments. There were some high-profile examples of him losing focus so we wanted to get a handle on that.
“He hasn’t been perfect but for the most part he’s made the fundamental adjustments that we’ve asked. He’s moving his feet much much better, especially on routine ground balls, and really to me looks outstanding at shortstop. He’s still had a couple of instances where he’s lost his focus. That’s going to continue to be an area of emphasis for him, but this kid cares, and I’m convinced that he’s going to get there and his tools are going to show up consistently on an everyday basis as he refines his mental game.”
So, Epstein agrees that Castro has the talent to be a quality defensive shortstop in the big leagues long-term. Many of us have believed the same for some time, but it’s always great to hear it from a top-notch talent evaluator like Epstein.
As for Castro’s offense, that, too, is only going to get better.
“At the plate he’s a work in progress,” Epstein said. “He’s going to be one of those kids who gains discipline as he moves into his prime. He’s still five years away from his prime. Twenty-seven is the age which most players reach their prime in the big leagues. As he starts to hit for more power, which will happen as he fills out, he’s going to be pitched to more carefully. It will be on him to make that adjustment and be a little bit more selective at the plate. You’ll see his slugging and on-base increase.”
In short, Castro is a great young player who will soon become a quality defensive shortstop with great offensive numbers. That pretty much would make Castro one of the most valuable players in baseball. Which would be awesome, especially if the Cubs can soon lock him up to a team-friendly, long-term deal.
And it’s what you’d expect Epstein to say about Castro, whether or not he’s, you know, listening to offers.
(Not to re-open that can of worms.)