Starlin Castro is in Great Shape, Did Some Hitting, is Ready to Go, and All That Good Stuff

starlin-castro-batIs there a single player at whose feet more of the disappointing 2013 season seems to be laid, while simultaneously also being the guy on whose shoulders more of the 2014 hope is placed, than Starlin Castro?

Fair or unfair, Castro is the face of the evolving Chicago Cubs organization at the big league level. Set to turn 24 next month, Castro was supposed to take his next step toward superstardom last year on the back of a new contract, and a team on the rise. Instead, Castro took a huge step backward, and, arguably, the Cubs right along with him. We could blame Castro’s down season on a variety of factors – the failed plate approach changes, the money lawsuit thing, some bad luck, etc. – but you can’t ignore that he, himself, represents a possible four or five-game swing in the Cubs’ 2014 results. From a sub-replacement-level player in 2013 to the four or five-win player the Cubs likely projected when they extended him in August 2012, Castro could go a long way to changing folks’ minds about the prospects for the 2015 Cubs by breaking back out in 2014.

Castro met with the media for the first time today, and among the notable items he shared:

That’s all good stuff, and at least some of it is a little more specific than the usual “worked really hard, best shape of life” type stuff you see about virtually every player in Spring Training (though that stuff is in there, too).

Hopefully some physical changes, those contacts, and getting back to an approach at the plate the works for him will be the keys to getting Castro back to where he was a few years ago. Of course, that’s not the ideal scenario – which would have him leaping forward into the guy we all hoped he’d be when he broke out as a 20/21-year-old – but I think the Cubs would take it for 2014.

Whatever the future holds for someone like Javier Baez, and whatever the Cubs’ chances of being anything but a last place team in 2014, only good things can come from success for Starlin Castro this year.

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

76 responses to “Starlin Castro is in Great Shape, Did Some Hitting, is Ready to Go, and All That Good Stuff”

  1. MightyBear

    Where’s Kyle? There’s a best shape of his life for you.

    1. Edwin

      And a “new contacts”.

      1. JacqueJones

        I hope he called 1-800-CONTACTS, he has special eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW7yZuFaKcY

    2. Kyle

      I love it. Is he rededicated to baseball?

      1. aaronb

        Reports are that he rediscovered his love of the game.

  2. JB88

    When did Jessie Rogers decide to become Paul Sullivan? Between his chat and tweets, holy negativity Batman.

  3. Edwin

    I’ll be happy if he can just go back to being a useful player.

  4. SenorGato

    Training at IMG is pretty legit, he didn’t do that the last time he was in his best shape ever.

    I’m rooting for Castro a little bit extra because of how far hes fallen and the odds piling up against him. Last year rreeeeeeeeeeeaaaaalllly stunk and left nothing to be optimistic about.

    1. EQ76

      We have to put some credence in the fact that changing his (Castro’s) approach at the plate last year was a major contributing factor to his issues. I remember getting a new coach my senior year of high school.. I had been a .350-.400 hitter my whole life. My coach made me change my approach and stance to start my senior year.. I hated it and it didn’t work. I hit about .180 to start the year after about 12 games. I finally convinced him to let me go back to my old approach at the plate. I ended up hitting .402 and made all-state, got a full ride to play college ball. I have no doubt Castro will look more like his old self this year.

    2. Jon

      How much can you really accomplish in 2-3 weeks though?

  5. Buss3636

    Is it bad that I read “Castro told me a new prescription..” and automatically thought PEDs?

    1. JCubs79

      I hope it means Adderall.

      1. TimBeam

        Yeah he puts Adderall on his eyes…..

        Did you even finish the sentence?

    2. aaronb

      [Ed. - That's the kind of comment that will get you auto-banned, dude.]

      1. WGNstatic

        classy – rape jokes are always a hit

        1. CubFan Paul

          Too soon?

  6. mike

    Wake me up when Jesse Rogers ever contributes anything useful.

    As for Starlin, he’s been on a slide since 2012 started. I’m not expecting a return to 2011 form.

    1. InTheoWeTrust

      For a guy that is going to be close to or have 1000 hits at 25, and has improved his error rate/% each of the last 3 years he takes a ton of crap. I love how a couple things happen (which granted weren’t good) the media jumps on him, and everyone thinks it must be right because it is being written about.

      1. aaronb

        The (a) problem with Castro is that the Cubs have been completely devoid of impact players. So the hype/pressure on and around him has been immense.

        He is a good little complementary player. That is all he should ever really be counted on being.

        It’s not his fault that fans have tried to will him into being better than his skill set dictates. He’s a young Asdrubal Cabrera if everything breaks right. Just be happy that we have at least 1 MLB player in the MLB lineup.

  7. Chad

    The best thing that can happen for the cubs is to have Baez teaming up with Castro is some capacity rather than replacing him because that mean Castro has bounced back. If Castro can be what we all know he can be (because he has done it before) then that makes the cubs better and pairing that with Baez will make the cubs better. I would also hope that playing together would help each other succeed.

    1. SenorGato

      I still dream of Castro at SS and Baez at 2B. Ive been confused for years as to why everyone is so married to Baez at 3B.

      I do think there can be a great relationship there. Baez’s attitude, outlook, and talent could take a load off young Castro. That would be my hope anyway. Not sure Castro is an “all eyes on me” type.

      1. SenorGato

        By “everyone” I mean mainstream prospect writers and their fans/followers. The Cubs FO has been very welcoming to Baez possibly at 2B.

        1. Chad

          I don’t care if Baez plays 3B or 2B, whichever is best for the team. If Olt works out and is above average at 3B then play Baez at 2B, but if he doesn’t work out and Alcantara is at 2B put Baez at 3B.

          I would prefer to have Baez at 2B. I think that would be best for him especially if he has to sub at SS for Castro at all, but I don’t care where he plays as long as the best team is on the field. If that ends up being Olt at 3B, Baez at SS, and Alcantara at 2B with Castro being traded for top tier pitching then so be it.

      2. woody

        I agree Mr. Cat, but Alcantara makes that a dificult decision. Baez at third works too. No doubt if he were our 2nd baseman he would be of the caliber of Cano. The thing I like about Alcantara is the switch hitting and speed on the base paths. If Bryant and Soler come up we are going to have to have some guys to get on base.

        1. Chad

          There is potential for Alcantara to move to CF correct? Or is that some myth that has been made here. If all works out he could move to CF. That would be fine with me. Then what do you do with Almora? Trade, 4th OF?Bryant in LF, Soler in RF, Alcantara in CF and Almora spelling them all. How fantastic would that be?

          1. woody

            That works if Bryant is at third. But I don’t know about using Almora as a corner outfielder. Having Bryant and Soler in the corners would be fantastic. I’m not hating on Castro, but there are some teams that could really use a SS of his caliber. None more than the Yankees. You just have to believe that somebody is getting traded for pitching. So it comes down to who is going to bring more in trade. Castro or Alcantara?

            1. Chad

              First it comes down to who helps the cubs the most and that is a combination of on the field and through trade. I think Alcantara on the cubs and Castro in trade would be the most valuable to the cubs even if Alcantara has a bit lower performance, but Castro would be more valuable in a trade assuming he bounces back. However, the Yankees have few top tier pitching prospects so is that really a fit? What about the Marlins?

      3. tobias

        Up until last year, the Cubs had a vacuum at 3B in the minors and at the big league level. It was only logical for fans to want Baez at 3B since Castro was at SS.

        1. CubFan Paul

          “Cubs had a vacuum at 3B in the minors and at the big league level. It was only logical for fans to want Baez at 3B”

          This.

          Now it’s “let trade Olt/Castro for pitching after 2014″

          Hail Baez.

      4. josh ruiter

        Probably less of a married to Baez to 3b and more of a concept of, if all three of Baez, Bryant, and Alcantara continue to look like quality ML pieces, each bringing a decidedly different skill set, Alcantara would be a very nice leadoff hitter, then defensively how do you maximize the three’s ability. Like Brad Pitt says in moneyball, make up for it in the aggregate. So ya get all 3 bats in the lineup and play them defensively where the most dWAR collectively can be found. That most likely is Bryant in the OF, Baez at 3b and Alcantara at 2b. Where the real dilemma arises is if Olt and/or Villanueva earn a shot at the big league level and produce as well, you may see Baez slide to 2b, and Alcantara to CF. This is why I think fans being very hyped on the youngsters is not overhyped. For every big 4/5 we also have another 10 prospects who are very legit and top 10 worthy in almost every other farm, so we are really banking on success from 4-5 out of 15 big league caliber players. not 4/4.

        1. Rich H

          I like this thinking quite a bit. But I think you are selling the Cubs depth WAY short with 4/5 out of 15. There is not a player in the top 15 that does not have a ceiling of a starter in the big leagues. Maybe 7 out of 15 make it to the show and 4 out of those 7 are at least league average.

          By the end of this year (not including the draft) it would not surprise me for the Cubs to still have 7 guys on the top 100 lists even with the the graduation of some to the majors. This system is really becoming stacked up the middle and at 3rd.

          1. Napercal

            This will all sort itself out. Not all of these guys are going to develop. That’s why good organizations have layered talent throughout their minor league system. It’s what sets the strong organizations apart. If they all develop? That’s a really nice problem to have.

            1. Rich H

              I do not think they will all develop. I think about half of our top 15 will at least be major league players though. I also think we will end up with about 4 “above replacement level” out of that. Will any of them be allstars? I do not know. But our depth of position players now working their way through the minors we are in good shape.

              1. aaronb

                I’m sold on Bryant and Baez being good MLB players. Lots of question marks beyond that.

  8. haveuseenmybaseball

    Lets hope its peds,and he shares team with the whole team

  9. Cerambam

    Castro, Rizzo, Olt, Alcantara, Baez, Castillo, Bryant: if you could just go ahead and do well this year, it would be great. Kthanksbye.

  10. waittilthisyear

    how about a .315/.355/.445 clip from starlin this year?

    1. Cerambam

      I do think Castro will rebound this year, but I think all three of those slash lines are too optimistic. My (if he rebounds) guess would be closer to 285/330/420.

  11. Ron Swansons Mustache

    I think he is going to bounce back and would prefer he remain a part of the core as opposed to being traded. Unless you can get a surefire ace, he is more valuable to the Cubs assuming he produces.

  12. woody

    I was looking at Javy’s facebook page and he had a photo of he and Castro. He writes ” I know a lot of people talk about us two but I can’t wait to play right next to him. Starlin Castro great person”. Baez seems to have two different facebook accounts and the photo is only on one of them. Everybody is talking about Olt’s performance as being a key factor in the third base situation, but I feel that Alcantara is a big factor too. If Alcantara is really bringing it at AAA then that might put the end to the speculation of Baez at second base. If that happens then it comes down to Castro being moved or to Bryant being moved to the outfielld and Baez at third. I know a lot of guys have been critical of me for talking about a Castro trade, but IMO he may be the best trade chip that we have to bring in a really top notch pitching prospect. Either way it’s really important that Castro increases his value.

    1. jammin502

      If Olt, Alcantara, Baez, and Bryant all pan out to be who we all dream they will be, that will be about a first for me in my lifetime of being a Cubs fan that that much hope is realized. If 2 of the guys in that list become what we hope, I think we are doing really well. And don’t trade Castro.

      1. Darth Ivy

        Olt and Bryant don’t both have to pan out. And none of them have to be who we all dream, either.

        And yes, there is a certain level of “if, then” premise going on. “If the team can fill the infield without castro, then…”

    2. Chad

      I agree with this sentiment. There are so many possibilities that will work themselves out over the next 12-24 months. I would put a good deal of money on some of the prospects not working out though. Unfortunately. These things generally tend to take care of themselves, but it is a good problem to have and discuss.

      1. Darth Ivy

        exactly. I tried explaining to someone about the possibilities that would lead to Castro being on the trade block, and I eventually started borring myself

  13. David

    Soooo many keys to 2015 in this upcoming 2014 season!! ESPN should do a 30/ 30 on this year…. the drama is awesome. Will Castro bounce back? Will Olt come back? Will Arrieta get consistency? Will Rizzo hit in the clutch? Will Alcantara come up/ where will he play? Same for Baez. Will Volgleburger continue to rake? Will Shark sign or get shipped? Can Lake start in the OF? Will more starting pitchers emerge in the minors??

    1. Chad

      YOU FORGOT BRYANT!!!!!!!!!!! HOW COULD YOU FORGET BRYANT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. David

        Bryant’s not a question…. its a given that he’ll be a superstar!!!!!!

        1. Chad

          Bryant is a lock, Baez is not? I disagree with that.

  14. Spoda17

    I am pulling for Castro, but the mental lapses concern me… Even Jerome Walton had a couple good/optimistic years… I hope he rebounds (Castro that is… I believe Walton is out of baseball… I think).

  15. ChiHawk93

    Brett or Luke,
    A little off topic but when does the Cubs top 40 prospect list come out? I’m really looking forward to it because Luke does a great job with ii.

  16. CubChymyst

    I like the Renteria quote. Hopefully he turns out to be a guy who can manage the cubs for more than 2 years.

    1. BenRoethig

      Same here. Seems like Rick is a lot more flexible than Dale was. He seems like coach within a player rather than making fit into a mould.

  17. Jon

    “Speaking to reporters Wednesday at Cubs’ spring training in Mesa, Ariz., Ricketts emphasized he’s confident in the Cubs as currently constructed.

    “I think we have a team right now that can go to the playoffs,” Ricketts said”

    It’s hard to take this clown seriously when he spews this nonsense.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Yeah..

    2. MichiganGoat

      Exactly what should he be saying at the start of Spring Training? The clown is your complete nonsense to talks anything ever said a make into something to hate. It really has become quite the sideshow.

      1. Jon

        “We feel good about the future”
        “We will be competing soon”

        It’s a flat out lie to say this team can make the playoffs and assumes your fans our stupid. It also directly contradicts what Theo/Jed have said and done. If they really could have made the playoffs, you would have seen a different off season.

        There is not one single realistic scenario outside of an act of god that would allow the Cubs to make the postseason this year. It would take record breakout seasons from Castro/Rizzo/Shark and they would also have to call up all the major prospects Baez, Bryant, Alcantar and have them make contributions.

        Your desire to be a cheerleader for all things ‘Cubs’ is the real sideshow.

        1. Jon

          *are stupid, damn no edit button

        2. another JP

          Only Jon would be so disrespectful to not even spell God correctly. What a mess of a person you are.

          1. Jon

            doesn’t your god say something about judging others?

  18. dw8

    I know these comments from Castro get minimized by fans as what everybody says, but, it is positive news.

    From Jesus Montero recently.
    “I gained a lot of weight in my country. So, now, I’m on a program to lose weight. I’m working really hard to get my weight back. I wasn’t doing nothing (after finishing winter ball), just eating.”

    1. woody

      I still say that by exposing Rizzo and Castro to the expectations of carrying the team at that stage of their developement was detrimental to their progress. And Soriano was really the only bat in that lineup to take the heat off of them, And so we do the same thing again this year. If they both step up and produce it will be great, but if they don’t I think you have to blame ownership/FO for being to cheap to bring a bat or two to Wrigley short term.

      1. dw8

        I know you still say it. But I still think that you are building a narrative from something that would be very difficult, if not impossible to back up. Also, if a player who is 12 percent better than league average is supposed to take the heat off of Castro and Rizzo, the Ruggiano/Schierholtz platoon should get them there.

  19. Fastball

    I don’t see Castro being traded. If Olt turns out to be great at 3B and hits well. I see Alcantara being the trade candidate because Baez will be playing 2B. Bryant to the OF in 2015. Or Alcantara gets to be parked at AAA. Until some of these guys actually get called up we don’t need to worry about who is going to be playing where and who gets traded. The Cubs organization will be damned lucky if half these guys actually play at MLB level. Anything can happen and it usually does.

    1. geo

      No way, they bring up alcantra first to see what they have then if he produces at a higher clip than Castro they trade castro. To much hype on Castro they need to trade him ASAP to get maximum return outside of 2011 it’s been down hill & it’s obvious he has a mental disorder that hinders his concentration. Plus no power 9 homers & 10 stolen bases is not as awesome as all the castro pumpers think for yearly output . What’s the hype? .283 .404 .440, 10 hr. 18 sb?? Let alcantra play maybe we can get an uptick in hr’s & sb’s + a switch hitter. The guy gets 200 hits in one season & omg he’s a superstar lets not give the other 2b prospects that are putting up better numbers in the minors a chance , let’s trade them & keep castro? Ok

  20. Diehardthefirst

    They addressed team speed .. Now time to address power.. Castro will never hit more than 15-20 dingers and Rizzo needs help- so how do they do that?

  21. bobby

    Dude had a rough year outside of baseball and I think that had a lot to do with his slump. Sexual allegations, lawsuit w/ former coach and Svuem tweeking his swing and moving him all around the line-up and being the face of a bad team. I think that would wear a lot of people down. I hope he actually turns it around. Attitude is huge with this kid. When he is focused and happy, he is damn good. Castro haters got to stop. I think you will be eating crow.

  22. nhunt4

    Isn’t batting Castro lead-off a huge mistake?

    1. bobby

      Yeah probably. Castro is best when he doesn’t have the pressure of “get on base”
      The dude is simple- see it hit it. Lets face it he is not the most intellectual player but that doesn’t mean he cant be really good. When the game was simple he was good but then the Cubs asked for more and tried to squeeze more out of him basically asking him to be the savior on a piss poor team.

      Ideally in the future Almora leads off.

      1. CubFan Paul

        “he is not the most intellectual player”

        Care to expound?

        Almora doesn’t profile/project to be a leadoff guy either. Alcantara maybe.

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