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starlin castro throwingA variety of bits on various Cubs positional players as Spring Training opens up. Positional players are due to report February 18 …

  • Jed Hoyer said at yesterday’s press conference that Starlin Castro is the Cubs’ shortstop. Emphatically. “Castro is our shortstop,” Hoyer said. “We have all the confidence in the world that he’ll remain our shortstop. I think he’ll keep working hard and he can keep improving. He knows there’s still growth there. He turns 24 in March. I think he’s got time on his side.” There are no thoughts of moving Castro off of shortstop any time soon. Full stop.
  • At third base, Hoyer expressed support for the Luis Valbuena/Donnie Murphy platoon that performed surprisingly well last year. The expectation laid out by Hoyer’s comments was that the tandem would be starting at third to open the season, and only after a follow-up did Hoyer mention that the Cubs are going to see how Mike Olt looks in the Spring, hope he looks good, and then make a decision then about his future. At first, I took Hoyer’s comments as a signal that the organization doesn’t have much hope for Olt returning to his 2012 form, but, upon reflection, I think that’s a bit too much reading. Given Olt’s unique situation – top tier prospect in 2012 on the verge of a breakout, injury/eye-troubled disastrous 2013 season, but possible job for the taking in 2014 because of a trade – there was no other way to address questions about him. Valbuena/Murphy will start at third, and there is absolutely no pressure whatsoever on Olt to come out dominating. He might need adjustment time anyway. No pressure.
  • Hoyer said that the Cubs plan to give Junior Lake plenty of plate appearances this year, and the hope is that he carries forward his success from last year into the Spring, and grabs a starting spot. Hoyer stopped short of saying Lake would be the starting left fielder, suggesting that there is still the possibility that Lake moves around (almost certainly in the outfield, though). I remain hopeful that we’ll get a really good look at Lake in center field.
  • Not that we expected anything different, but Arismendy Alcantara is going to be the second baseman at AAA Iowa to start the year (as opposed to moving around a bit, I suppose).
  • Javier Baez might get exposed to some more second and third base this Spring, but he’s the AAA shortstop to start the year.
  • Mouse1

    Brett, do we already know where Almora is going to start the year?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nope. Not announced yet. High A seems most likely.

      • Mouse1

        Is he invited to ST?

        • Kyle

          yes

  • Senor Cub

    “Arismendy Alcantara is going to be the second baseman at AAA Iowa to start the year”

    Why such a fear of pulling the plug on Barney for Alcantara? Surely he can hit .200 average. Are baseball players so mentally challenged that once they lose their confidence they can never regain it? I am sure everyone would agree whether it’s this year or at some point in the future every single player will hit .200 for a stretch. So why not have him go through it now, if he in-fact is the future at 2nd base. I don’t get it.

    • Kyle

      Because there’s no incentive to waste Alcantara’s service time when he has plenty to learn in AAA.

    • aaronb

      I doubt they want to burn up service time on Alcantara. And for as good as he was last year, he’s never put up elite numbers anywhere. He seems like a full season at AAA guy. Maybe even a May 2015 call up.

      • CubFan Paul

        “He seems like a full season at AAA guy. Maybe even a May 2015 call up”

        Yep. His switch hitting mechanics aren’t perfect, no need to rush him.

    • Norm

      Plus, if he sucks, his trade value might take a hit vs if he does well in AAA he may look more attractive.

      • Smitty

        This is an important way to look at it. The front office has said that they believe Baez would be a terrific 2nd baseman. Couple that with the comments about Castro being the SS for the foreseeable future and we have a very well regarded trade chip.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Almost anybody who can play SS at all well can play 2B and/or 3B well, too. Nothing about playing SS causes you to develop skills or habits that are detrimental to playing those two positions.

          • Smitty

            Of course. I’m bringing up the point that the FO has already mentioned Baez as a more than adequate at 2nd base, coupled with the Castro statements can imply that the FO is interested in the two being our double play combination in the future. That leaves Alcantara as great #2 option if one of those two don’t improve or as a trade chip.

      • Senor Cub

        “Plus, if he sucks, his trade value might take a hit vs if he does well in AAA he may look more attractive”

        Say what??

        If he sucks, I would rather know now then a year or two from now just like we now know about Jackson and Vitters. At the same time, much like Rizzo if he doesn’t do as well and you still are enamored with the guy you can always send him back to AAA to work on stuff.

        • Voice of Reason

          Senor,

          Forget it. He will not start the year in the bigs. It’s more of a financial thing than anything else. They are in no position of winning this year, so why start the clock on his service time in the majors? Let him continue to develop in Triple A and get some seasoning. Perhaps he is called up at some point this year?

          • Senor Cub

            Voice of Reason –

            What are you talking about? The Cubs ticket prices are 3rd highest in Baseball as of last year. Is Alcantera going to break the bank??

            Just say it, you love mediocrity!

            • Ron Swansons Mustache

              It makes no sense to promote him if they still feel he has development left at Iowa. He is nowhere near a finished product.

        • Baseball_Writes

          I actually think the point that was being made here was that if he sucks we don’t want to know. Or, more, we don’t want other teams to know. If the FO does plan on a combo of Castro & Baez, then they must be able to field trade proposals for Alcantara. And no one will want to trade for him if he is brought up and plays poorly; thus, if they keep him in AAA and he plays well he has more trade value.

    • jammin502

      The one guy you don’t hear anyone talking about is Logan Watkins. Has he already been written off? If Alcantara is starting at AAA and Barney in the bigs, has he already been sentenced to the “utility” tag? He is only 24, has some speed and will take a walk. He can also play the outfield, 3B, and SS. How well, I don’t know. But maybe utility is his ticket?

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        That’s a good question. And I think the Olt situation will play into the determination of what to do with Watkins. If Olt falters then it is likely that Watkins may make the roster as a backup to Barney. The problem is that Valbuena and Murphy are both utility guys too. And then you have Alcantara starting at AAA so where does Watkins fit in if he can’t make the club. I think that Dale Sveum was very loyal to his players and didn’t give Watkins a chance because Barney was in the thick of things for the gold glove award. To have benched Barney for his offense at that point wouldn’t have sat very well with the fans seeing that Barney is a popular player. But it would be a shame if Watkins never gets aa chance to strut his stuff. But looking at the guys coming up I can only imagine Watkins being a utility guy under club control that would be a cost saving measure over the salary we would have to pay Valbuena. Then again I could see how a contender might be interested in Valbuena at the trade deadline considering his fielding skills and left handed bat. Personally I hope that Valbuena stays with the team as an example and mentor for the young guys coming up.

      • Baseball_Writes

        Yeah, I think the way Watkins was treated last year was indicative of how they feel about him. 27 September games and only 42 PA’s; during that same time Barney was stinking up the joint with what was probably his worst offensive month of the year. Still, they would not give Watkins any playing time.

        Obviously, internally they do not have a lot of faith in him. I’d like to see him get a consistent chance just for a change of scenery. If there is any year to do it, it’s this year.

  • Cubbie in NC

    What if Baez or Castro is the 2nd baseman of the future? If the Cubs are planning on trading him to make room then better he hit high in AAA than get exposed in MLB.

    • mdavis

      he seems to have the ability to play CF. or he’s a real nice trade chip. Or Baez plays 3rd and Bryant is in RF. theres lots of possibilities, hopefully everyone is so good cubs have too much, and they can trade for a pitcher. lots of time.

    • jammin502

      Yes, we have keep our expectations realistic. Not everyone prospect, no matter how highly touted, pans out. The Cubs have a wasteland of these (Patterson, Pie, Scott, etc). Most of us, a couple years ago would have been almost positive that Vitters and Jackson would already be entrenched major leaguers playing in the All Star game every year by now.

  • mdavis

    as for Olt, I think the cubs want him to win the job, truly. But this is standard sport practice. The returning guys are the favorite, and Olt is going to have to take it from them. And I hope he does, that would be a big help if he bounced back.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I think it is silly to think that Olt will win the job out of ST, considering the lack of playing time he has had since the injury. I don’t see where he fits into the big picture anyway. With the emergence of Alcantara and his switch hitting and base stealing abilities it is reasonably certain that between Baez and Bryant, that Olt is not going to be there long term unless he just comes out and crushes it in ST and there after. Probability for that is less than average. The most likely scenario IMO is that Barney is given every opportunity to recover and build value and Valbuena and Murphy continue the platoon at third. Olt plays third at Iowa while Bryant is at AA. If Bryant dominates with the Smokies then a decision will have to be made midseason. If Olt is having sucess at AAA then maybe he gets tossed into a package with shark for some prime pitching prospects. Another scenario is that if Olt rakes then Alcantara is traded and Baez plays second. Or maybe Alcantara comes up as a utility guy. But you can bet that first half performances with clear that problem up. Unless of course they all rake.

    • CubFan Paul

      “considering the lack of playing time he has had since the injury”

      huh?

      • mdavis

        he played in 107 games last year….thats not that bad. means he missed maybe a month total.

    • D-Rock

      Where will that put Christian Villanueva?

  • CubbiesOHCubbies

    “Starlin Castro is our Shortstop”

    I just had a Lovie Smith flashback here

    “Rex is our quarterback”

  • itzscott

    Starling Castro is EMPHATICALLY the Cubs shortstop, huh?

    To me, that sounds like Hoyer trying to talk up Castro’s value for a trade sometime soon.

    • Cheese Chad

      That is some serious reading between the lines

      • itzscott

        >> That is some serious reading between the lines <<

        Well think about it…. Baez is a Top 5 prospect in all of baseball, has played ss pretty exclusively, will continue to play ss and is anticipated to be with the Cubs sometime this season. While Alcantara is a Top 100 prospect in all of baseball, plays 2nd base and is projected to step in next season.

        Both of these guys are thought to have been taught the "new" Cub way while Castro was not and continues to have lapses in concentration…. meaning he's really not the guy Cub management would feel confident starting for them in a playoff game.

        I think Castro with a solid season would be more likely to fetch an Archie Bradley type pitching prospect than Samardzija would.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Anybody currently playing SS can be moved to any IF position or the corner OF without too much problem: sometimes, they even can move to CF.

          As they showed with the Sox, the current Cubs management’s criterion for being confident in a guy starting a post-season game is that they are confident in him starting a regular season game.

          And as for the new “Cubs Way,” Baez at least really is pretty far from that: and much of it has to do with the players you select, not things that players can be taught.

          So, this is less reading between lines than making an invalid extrapolation. If someone asks you who is playing position X, then you tell them who is playing position X. Remember, most of the supposed “controversies” in who is playing where on any team are controversies only among fans and sports-media and in no way reflects what the people in charge are thinking. (And, no, asking Jed a million times will make him start wondering about it no more than asking a scientist a million times if the Earth isn’t really the center of the Universe.)

          • itzscott

            >> an invalid extrapolation.<< ??!!

            Mmmmm…. I bet your wife/girlfriend loves it when you string words together like that!

            I'll have to try that one tonight to see how far it gets me.

            • TWC

              When you don’t understand what someone is saying, it’s always helpful to make fun of them for using big words.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Well, if I used it to describe her research, then she’d probably throw her laptop at me and call me a microencephalic luddite.

              • DarthHater

                Robots like it rough, eh?

              • cubsnivy56

                Not gonna lie, I had to Google that. And HaHa you get multiple references to one of Doc’s favorite sayings. LOL!

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  I like to have a catch phrase or two to utter in my opening scene every day.

                  What sucks is that my wife and I are in the same general field, and *she* got to go to the meetings in Florida right now. I’m stuck at home with the 5 year old, coaxing him to fill out Valentine’s Day cards.

                  Oh well, at least the Tweeters said that her talk was really good today!

    • jammin502

      You may look at it that way, but I would have to say that this statement is more about Starlin’s head. We are really looking for a bounce back year and you know he is hearing all about Baez, as much as we are, maybe more. This statement is mostly geared to help Starlin relax and concentrate on what he needs to concentrate on, not the “Baez Circus is coming to town” fanfare.

  • Cheese Chad

    To me that sounds like. Why would anyone think anybody else would be our shortstop right now. A two-time all-star and only 24 years old ……

    • CubFan Paul

      Yeah, it’s a silly question, especially considering the contract.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      There has been a group of people here for quite some time demeaning Castro. At it’s peak (when the report of money being seized came out) he was being drug through the mud here on a daily basis. I have to wonder if that didn’t contribute to Brett’s decision to register users. Some of it had racial overtones. I think it is perfectly logical to believe that those problems in the DR and the revamping of his approach at the plate affected his performance last year. This ball club is going to have a distinct core of Latin players for the forseeable future and eviedently Sveum wsn’t communicating with Castro in an effective manner. And with Soler, Baez, Almora and Alcantara on their way the FO was more than justified in their decision. I am willing to bet that Castro is an allstar this year. If he did it two times before at such a young age then what is going to prevent him from doing so again?

      • Edwin

        Having years like last year would prevent Castro from being an all-star again. I think the people dragging Castro through the mud pretty much balanced out the people constantly comparing him to a HOF player his first couple years. Both are pretty over the top.

      • another JP

        I’m willing to take that bet that Castro’s not in the AS game this year. He’s way behind too many others and even by matching his 2012 production it won’t happen.

        • Brocktoon

          Our team might be terrible enough to not have a better option

    • Funn Dave

      Yeah no kidding.

  • itzscott

    My take on Hoyer’s comments (or lack of) regarding Olt is that he doesn’t want to put more pressure on him than necessary by building up everyone’s expectations.

    But one would have to think the prospect of a Valbuena/Murphy platoon at 3rd base, Hoyer’s got to be crossing his fingers & toes that Olt comes thru and nails down the position.

    • willis

      Well the question is…if he doesn’t blow them away in ST, where does he play at AAA?

  • fortyonenorth

    If Castro were in AAA–and considering what we know about his potential and limitations–where do you think he’d rate among the Cubs and MLB prospects. I broach the questions because, while it’s easy to get down on him, he’s still only 24.

    • CubFan Paul

      2011 should of been his AAA year. His status would be way down after 3 years in AAA

      • Noah_I

        This. And considering the way Castro was hitting in Double A, it’s quite possible that Castro would have been moved to Triple A quite quickly in 2010 had he not been promoted to the Cubs. Had Castro not debuted in May 2010, he likely would have been a Top 10 prospect in baseball heading into 2011, debuting in early to mid-2011.

    • ced landrum

      I don’t know for sure but I can tell you that after the 2010 season Jim Callis or Keith Law(can’t remember which) said if he hadn’t used up eligibility he would have been the number 2 or 3 prospect in all of baseball. Thats between Harper and Trout or right after.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I enjoyed listening to Harold Reynolds talk about Castro the other morning on tv. He said that if he were a gm, he would be trying as hard as possible to aquire Starlin. Called him one of the most talented young players in the game. Said it was a huge mistake to try and change his approach, the last thing you want is a free swinger like Castro to start thinking and change the way he has been hitting since he was a kid on the island. Expects him to have a great season.
    Asked the rhetorical question, Do you know how hard it is for a 21 year old player to get 200 hits in a major league season?

  • Diehardthefirst

    Castro entering peak years- now or never

    • ssckelley

      Just when I think I have read your dumbest post you somehow find a way to top it. I hope you are trolling, if so good job. You seriously got me laughing.

  • V23

    It’s not “now or never”. The kid will be 24 on opening day. He had a down year last year. To me, it’s understandable. He was on a team that had no hope, with a manager who publicly took shots at him, while simultaneously underdeveloping him.

    Expect at least .280 average with 15 homers this year.

    The cardinals just paid over about $13 Million a year to a roid cheater who will be worse than Castro and more expensive. However, Cardinals do seem to find a way to “re-ignite” cheaters. Probably, better skills avoiding the positive drug test.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Mozeliak with the Cardinals said yesterday, that they were under the impression that Peralta was just taking a diuretic.
      Oh yeah, he was going to see Tony Bosch because he was trying to lose some weight. The level of BS from the Cardinals organization never ceases to amaze.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Peak years 24-29 … What’s not understandable ? You’ll know when I’m trolling … Or maybe not ?

    • ssckelley

      He just turned 24, so it isn’t “now or never”.

      Even if you were not trolling I still laughed. :D

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I am reassured by the fact that Castro was working with a trainer over the winter and will probably be in the best shape of his playing career. Maybe the Presidente beer and chicarones got the best of him the off season before. I think that Hoyers statement was intended to soften the distraction of Baez breathing down his neck. For a kid that is prone to distraction anyway that is the best way to handle it. My fear with Castro is that when we do become a playoff team that one of his mental blunders will cost us a crucial game. Stll have nightmares about Leon Durham.

    • ssckelley

      I have some of those same concerns but he has never been in that situation yet with the Cubs. Perhaps he is one of those guys who steps it up a notch when the competition gets tougher. I can see where someone can have mental lapses when playing for a non competitive team.

  • Napercal

    The Cubs have more prospects than available positions. In essence aren’t all the young guys really competing against each other long-term. Of course the FO will say that Castro is the shortstop. He’s locked in for years. Baez, Alcantara, Castro, Bryant and Olt are essentially competing for three infield spots. The top 3 win and the others compete for outfield spots with Soler, Almora and Lake. There might very well be others competing for all of these spots – Villanueva and Candelario immediately come to mind and there may be others. Not all will perform as expected. Some guys in the minors may break out and who knows how the draft will go. Any combination of them may be used for trade bait in the future. It is obviously in the Cubs best interest to have all of their young guys excel, so why put pressure on any of them in spring training of a season in which success will be defined as how well the young guys develop throughout the organization. This should be season in which the Cubs keep all options open. It is also in the Cubs best interest to shave years of service where possible – not just for their own benefit, but also to enhance trade value down the road.

  • Dingo

    Castro to be traded to the Yankees next offseason.

    I’m calling it

    • Jon

      0% chance Castro is traded to the Yankees

    • Brocktoon

      So much for getting a young stud pitcher

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    They were one of the teams inquiring in December I believe. And so were the Cardinals. There is no shortage of teams that would like to have Castro.

  • Voice of Reason

    The cubs are not trading Castro. His contract is too team friendly unless some team reaaaalllllyy wants him and offers a ton.

    Even if he hits .240 he is worth what we are paying him.

  • jp3

    How so? I don’t think he’s worth it if he hits .240 and has an OBP under .290.

  • BenRoethig

    I think guys are reading way too far into things. First off, the Cubs have options. I don’t think there are firm plans because we are dealing with prospects (who may or may not hit their upside in the majors) and because all of them could move positions based how things unfold. Getting their fundamentals sounds sound is much more important than where they play in the minors. If you’re a shortstop, you can play 2nd or third. Our two main 3rd base prospects, Bryant and Olt also have corner outfield experience. I’d give them time at other positions, but leave their focus on approach and major league pitch sequencing. If you’re defensively sound at one position, chances are you can pickup another much easier. The young players will be up when their ready and when the team is ready to take them. Winning in 2014 doesn’t matter. Player development does.

    another couple points
    -Barney: why play him? Because as a Gold glove winning 2nd baseman, if we can get him back up in the .250-.270 range hitting by the trade deadline, he could be worth something in a trade to a team that needs an upgrade. He is a black hole between on the right field side of the infield
    – Castro: Hoyer said what he said for two reasons. 1) To give him confidence and 2) because He’s out best long term option at short once he gets his head straightened out. He can flat out more plays than Baez can. He has better range. Also has Baez fills out, he is expected to outgrow the position anyway. Just think Jeter/ARod…without the later’s PEDs

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