Starlin Castro is an All-Star … And So is Bryan LaHair

There was a time two months ago that Bryan LaHair looked like a mortal lock for the NL All-Star team. At the time, he was the second best offensive player in the NL behind only Matt Kemp, and nothing could stop him.

But then, the inevitable adjustments of pitchers, and inevitable BABIP backslide stopped him. LaHair hasn’t been bad, mind you, just not the herculean beast he once was. And he’s really struggled to hit lefties when he’s been given a chance to try.

So it was a bit of a surprise today when it was announced that the Cubs would be getting two All-Star reps, one of whom was Starlin Castro (no surprise), and the other wasn’t Alfonso Soriano. It was indeed LaHair. Both players made it by way of the player vote.

LaHair is hitting .284/.364/.526 after a pretty deep slide in June, but that slugging percentage is still good enough for 11th in the league, and he still looks like one of the better first baseman in the NL behind Joey Votto (even if he isn’t the starting first baseman on his team anymore). LaHair has 13 homers and 28 RBI.

Castro is hitting .298/.319/.432 and will be in his second straight All-Star Game.

The LaHair news doesn’t take anything away from Castro, but it’s certainly a pretty great story: minor league journeyman becomes All-Star? Who doesn’t like that?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

112 responses to “Starlin Castro is an All-Star … And So is Bryan LaHair”

  1. nkniacc13

    Yeah but the Cubs were not going to draft hamliton they did only to sell his rights.

  2. Pouncey

    Right. But the question is why were they going to pass on Hamilton? Why did they draft him as a favor instead of for themselves as they were entitled to with the first pick?

    Answer: They needed room for Felix Pie and Alfonso Soriano.

    1. Luke

      Virtually no one thought he could still play baseball at a high level.

      He did not play at all, not in any level of the minors, in 2003, 2004, or 2005.  He played in 15 games in 2006 for Tampa’s team in the short season New York Penn League and finished with a not-earth shattering OPS of .687.

      Before that empty stretch he had not exactly been a model of consistency on the field.  He appeared in just 56 games in 2002, and 27 games in 2001.  Until his 2008 campaign with Texas, he had never in his life played in as many as 100 games in a single season.

      There was quite literally no baseball reason to take the guy.  That he managed to turn his life and his career around is all to his credit (and he deserves a ton of it), but there was no evidence at all he was ever going to have any kind of a career, let alone a good one.

      When the Cubs briefly held his rights, he was not by any stretch of the imagination the best player in the game.  He was a washed up, very raw, former top prospect who had wrecked his career with drugs.  Felix Pie had absolutely nothing to do with the decision not to hang on to him.  After all, he couldn’t even hit in the New York Penn League.  Why would they consider him competition for Pie?

      1. Pouncey

        Sorry, Luke, but I disagree completely. Saying Pie wasn’t a factor in the 2007 Cubs outfield situation is wrong:
        http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5708

        No reason to take the guy? Hamilton was an 80 on the scouting scale in running, throwing, hitting, power, and defense on the day of the Rule 5. (which may be more 80s than the entire Cubs organization has combined, for all their players total, right now). The stats in your post don’t have nearly the weight in scouting which raw tools do, right? Of course he was a risk. But it was a cheap risk which needed to be made for a former #1 pick who was attempting a comeback.

        1. Jp

          I still think we broke even when we got Ryno for a bag of magic beans from tge Philly’s.

          1. Toby

            Cubs won that trade with Philly. Ryno and Bowa for DeJesus.

        2. Luke

          I said Pie was not a factor in the decision to not keep Hamilton, not that Pie was not a factor in the Cubs’ outfield picture.

          And no, Hamilton was not rated an 80 in all five tool categories.  Had he done so he would have been by far the single greatest prospect in minor league history every year he was allowed to put on a uniform.  That’s simply not what the facts say.

          http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=hamilt004jos

          He was rated No 1 once in his career, but only once.  Anyone with even two tools rated at an 80 would be a dead certain No 1 in nearly every year since minor league rankings first started.  I’m not sure I can come up with any guys who ever had even three tools rated that high.  All five is nothing less than sheer nonsense.

          1. Pouncey

            So explain how Pie was not a factor in the decision? Pie was expected to spend 2007 and beyond in Chicago (he was expected to start hitting in the Penn league by the scouts whose jobs depended on it). To make a Rule 5 selection pay off, you needed a roster spot.

            Hamilton WAS considered by many educated scouts as the premier position player prospect of all-time, just as you described. That is a fact. OK, if his skills had deteriorated since high school, he could have been a 70 in running on the day of the draft, who knows. He fell in the rankings you posted because of his well-known drug problems and related underperformance. The argument that Hamilton did not possess some of the best tools of all-time is plainly wrong. He still does.

            There were at least 3 teams who did pass on him, as somebody posted today. That must have been an era when old college baseball coaches used their gut to make player-personnel decisions. Go Creighton!!

            1. DocPeterWimsey

              This is the part that we seem to have problems communicating: there was no decision. Hamilton was not on the Cubs radar.  Like the rest of baseball, they had pretty much forgotten about him.  The man had spent more time in rehab that all of the Rolling Stones put together.  It had been a couple of years since people had even talked about Hamilton as a “wasn’t it a shame…” story or as a “well, it just shows by how much a ‘can’t miss’ guy can miss” story.  All of that scouting that you cite was from nearly a decade before: and it seemed obvious by then that Hamilton was a bust.

              Basically, this is like asking you why you never purchased shares in a Company X that you had forgotten existed.  You didn’t decide to forgo those stocks to purchase shares in another corporation: you simply never considered purchasing the shares for Company X.

              1. Pouncey

                Thanks, Doc. But my point is (and we agree) that Hamilton was not on the Cubs radar, meaning he wasn’t even considered, and that was a very, very poor management decision by Jim Hendry & Co. as it turns out.

                Trying to argue that it was inconceivable to imagine that one of the best all-time prospect ever (no matter what scale you use, Hamilton is among the top 10 prospects of all-time and a former #1 overall) would turn into the most valuable player in baseball simply fails.

                The Cubs, and at least two other teams as you pointed out, got it wrong.

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  By your rationale, 26 other teams got it wrong, too. The Rays would gladly have traded Hamilton for next-to-nothing; after all, they gave him up for nothing. That was not poor management: they are, after all, one of the best FOs in baseball. The Yanks, Sox, Braves, Phil’s, etc. – all of the best run teams in baseball at that time – “declined” to offer the Rays anything for Hamilton. Just like the Cubs, none of them thought: “we will go with Player X over Hamilton.”. Instead, just like the Cubs, none of them thought about him at all. None of them got it “wrong” anymore than people who do not buy lottery tickets get it wrong.

                  And then the Reds got it wrong: they traded away Hamilton for much less than his eventual worth. But, remember, you would be assuming that the Rangers blew it by deciding to not pursue Hamilton a year earlier when he would not have cost them Volquez.

                  1. Pouncey

                    Yeah, good point. He must have really dumped on the Rays to scare away everybody except the Reds (I don’t know other than internet articles). You have to admit, he did fall right into our laps though…50k isn’t even a blip on the development budget radar for a major market team.

                    1. hansman1982

                      The only reason the reds wanted him is because there were people in the org that cared more about him staying alive and getting sober than him playing baseball.

                      The Reds trading for him had 0 to do with his talent.

                    2. Cubbie Blues

                      It would have been a LOT more than 50k. That is what would have gone to Hamilton. There would have been much more going to everything put around him. Notice all the “would” there? It’s all shoulda, coulda, woulda. At the time he had every signs of having a Milton Bradley in the club house. He had been given many opportunities to prove he could have been trusted and failed every time. He lied, walked out on teammates and was a heroine addict.

            2. Luke

              Hamilton did possess some fantastic tools and I never said otherwise.  But he is not and never was an 80 in all five categories.  No one has ever been an 80 in all five, and I’m fairly confident no one ever will be.

              In the case of Hamilton, you need only look at the numbers.  Hamiltion in the season following the Rule 5 draft attempted a grand total of six steals and had two triples.  And you want me to believe he rated an 80 in speed at the time of the Rule 5?  Mike Trout rates an 80, and he already has 22 steals in 25 attempts this season.  And he’s done it in 33 fewer games than Hamilton had in 2007.  There is absolutely no conceivable way Hamilton was remotely close to an 80 at the time of the draft.  He might have been a 55, but even that could be pushing it.

              dWAR is flawed, but there is a 0% chance that a player who rated an 80 in defense at the time of that Rule 5 draft would wind up with a dWAR of 0.0 over the course of his career.  That is exactly where Hamilton’s is.  In his 2007 season he had a dWAR of 0.1.  To use Mike Trout as an example again, he rates a 70 in defense and currently has a dWAR of 0.9.

              I’ll give you 80 on his arm, but I would not rate his power or his hit in 2007 any higher than a 65-70.  65-70, by the way, is still very, very high.

              And his tools had nothing to do with the reason teams were staying away from him.  He was considered an enormous risk because of his very long, very scary, and very well documented history of drug and alcohol problems, disappearing from team facilities, walking out on his teammates, failing drug tests, breaking promises, and spending nearly as much time serving suspensions as he had spent on the field.

              Hamilton deserves a ton of credit for turning things around, but I can’t blame any team for not wanting to saddle themselves with one of the most self destructive players in baseball history.  Tampa gave up on him for a very good reason, and Tampa was one of the most patient and best run organizations in baseball at the time.  The Hamilton story is not a story of bad teams making dumb decisions, it’s a story of a guy who finally got it together just in time to save his career when virtually no one thought he could do it.

              1. Pouncey

                Cool – thanks for the detailed response. We disagree about how good a prospect Hamilton was/is, but opinions can vary. Hamilton could absolutely fly in high school – nobody in high school in the entire country had a better 60 time than Josh Hamilton. Nobody.

                65-70 for power for the American League Home Run Champion? Interesting scale, but opinions do vary.

                The story from my perspective on this Cubs site is that we have been overly right-handed, searching for a centerfielder, for the past 5 years. An MVP, gold glove, World Series Champion became available for 50k, and the Cubs missed the opportunity. Whether they should have seen it at the time is debatable, but everyone agrees they made a mistake. It requires risks to win championships and the Hamilton mistake has plagued the Cubs organization ever since.

                1. TWC

                  “Whether they should have seen it at the time is debatable, but everyone agrees they made a mistake…. [and it] has plagued the Cubs organization ever since.”

                  Everyone?  Everyone?  Can you identify one other person with whom you have been engaging on this topic that would agree with you?

                2. Norm

                  I don’t think the Cubs made a mistake by not putting a 25 year old heroin addicted suicidal outfielder that hadn’t spent any time above A ball in over 5 years, on the major league active roster.

                3. Luke

                  An MVP, Gold Glove, World Series Champion did not come available for $50,000.  Josh Hamiliton was none of these things when he was in the Rule 5.  He wasn’t even a major league player when he was in the Rule 5.

                  Wait… Gold Glove?  When did Hamilton ever win a Gold Glove?

                  1. TonyP

                    I can’t believe there is anyone out there that doesn’t understand that Hamilton was a junkie at that time and in no way should the fact be argued that the Cubs screwed up by not taking him for themselves.

                  2. djriz

                    Also, Luke, how many years after that Rule V draft was he a World Series Champion?

                    1. Luke

                      I’ll get back with you once my time machine if finished.

                    2. Pouncey

                      You don’t need a time machine to project one of the best prospects of all-time recovering from an illness and becoming the American League Most Valuable Player.

                      Drug addiction or no, guys like you and me can NEVER do it.

                      Only guys like Josh Hamilton can, who come along once every 10 or 20 years.

                4. Luke

                  65-70 for power for the American League Home Run Champion? Interesting scale, but opinions do vary.

                  I’m getting the idea you have no idea how rare an 80 actually is, or just how good a 70 really is.  65+ is a territory inhabited by the very best in the game.  It’s where All-Stars live.  It’s exactly where a Home Run Champion is likely to be.  70 is reserved for the truly elite.

                  http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4860

                   

                  1. Pouncey

                    I guess I just like Josh Hamilton or the Cubs too much. Thanks for the education, and sorry if I offended anybody!

                  2. Pouncey

                    I think Hamilton has an 80 power grade for two reasons:
                    1, Nobody in baseball hits the ball as far as Josh Hamilton
                    2. Nobody in baseball hits home runs more frequently than Josh Hamilton

                    1. MichiganGoat

                      Thinking something does not equal truth.

                    2. Drew7

                      Oh…so thats how it works? Neat.

                    3. Luke

                      If you check the numbers, you’ll find he isn’t in the top ten among active players in AB/HR (home run frequency), and isn’t in the top 50 all time.

                    4. Cubbie Blues

                      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/baseball/mlb/06/04/scouting.report.josh.hamilton/

                      Josh Hamilton
                      Ratings (20-80 scale)
                      Overall: 60
                      Batting: 65
                      Power: 55
                      Contact: 60
                      Average: 60
                      Running: 70
                      Speed: 70
                      Base Running: 60
                      Instinct: 55
                      Fielding: 60
                      Hands: 60
                      Footwork: 65
                      Range: 65
                      Throwing: 70
                      Arm Strength: 70
                      Arm Accuracy: 60
                      Release: 60
                5. Toby

                  “Plagued” the Cubs system since 2006?

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      0/10!  The correct answer is, Hamilton was not even on the Cubs radar.  He’d drank/smoked/injected/popped his way off of most team’s radars.  The Rays are as smart an organization as there is, and they left him unprotected.  The Padres took Joacim Soria instead of Hamilton.

      1. Pouncey

        This is true! I had remembered the Cubs picking first, but looked it up and two other teams passed on Hamilton as well.

        I feel better.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          Actually, only the Padres passed on him.  The Rays picked first, and they were letting Hamilton go.  Of course, it has happened once or twice that teams drafted guys from themselves after accidentally leaving someone off of the 40 man roster!  However, the Rays were done with Hamilton at that point.

    3. MaxM1908

      I really wish people on this site would stop viewing the Hamilton Rule 5 draft with 20/20 hindsight. At the time of the Cubs’ Rule 5 draft favor to the Reds, Josh Hamilton was still a high-risk liability. Read this 2006 report (about 8 months before the Rule 5 draft which sent Hamilton, via the Cubs, to the Reds). http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=schoenfield/060427. Hamilton was rated the 35th WORST draft pick of all time because of how his personal issues derailed his career. At the time, I’m sure it wasn’t worth a roster spot to the Cubs to take on such a liability.

  3. dabynsky

    What people always seem to forget from the Josh Hamilton story is his relationship with Johnny Narron. In 2007, Johnny Narron’s brother, Jerry, was the manager of the Reds. Johnny conviced Jerry about Josh Hamilton and was hired as a coach. That relationship was the reason why the Reds took a chance that no other team in major league baseball was willing to do, and that relationship is so important that the Rangers hired Narron as a coach once Hamilton was traded to him. There are lots of reasons to blame Jim Hendry for the failures of the past decade, but “trading” Josh Hamilton isn’t one of them.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Yeah, I brought Narron up earlier. Hamilton gave his lunch money to Johnny every week so he wouldn’t be walking around with all that disposable money. Johnny was also his Fall Ball coach when he was 15. They went pretty far back. There wasn’t anyone in the Cub’s organization who had that kind of connection with Hamilton. Who knows, the trade may have saved his life.

      1. dabynsky

        Sorry I read through the whole thing looking for this, and somehow missed your post.

        1. Cubbie Blues

          Not a problem. It has been an almost epically long topic.

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