It’s hard to select the most appropriate word to describe Starlin Castro’s offseason. It’s been filled with negative attention, to be sure, but it’s not clear that all or any of it is really his “fault.” But there was some troubling stuff in there. So I’m trying to find the right connotation.
Starlin Castro has had an … unnerving offseason.
It all started out on the wrong foot – pun mostly unintended – when Castro’s comeback 2014 season ended early thanks to a serious ankle sprain, which mean the offseason was going to involve some rehab. Fortunately that seemed to be going well enough, but then there were a couple shooting incidents – yes, two of them – to which Castro was connected in his home city in the Dominican Republic. Castro’s involvement in those shootings seems to have been “none,” but the incidents only served to (1) keep Castro’s name in the papers for the wrong reasons, and (2) underscore that staying in the Dominican Republic full-time in the offseason might not be a sustainable plan for Castro going forward.
To the latter point, Castro may be moving to the United States at some point soon, but, in the interim, there is good news: Castro is already in Arizona, working out at the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa, according to Mark Gonzales and Castro’s agent, Paul Kinzer. (Gonzales’s piece is a good read on the situation, with a lot more from Castro’s agent.)
That’s great to hear for so many reasons, including Castro’s safety, Castro’s ability to prepare mentally for the season ahead, and Castro’s ability to prepare physically for the season ahead. Not only are there the offseason issues to get past, as well as the ankle injury, there’s the fact that Castro has missed most of the last two Spring Trainings after suffering different hamstring injuries early in the Cactus League. I don’t mean to imply that a lack of preparation contributed to those injuries, but having extra time in Mesa to focus and prepare can’t hurt when it comes to Castro’s durability.
Barring a shock, Castro will enter the 2015 season as the Cubs’ starting shortstop. He will have just turned 25, and he’ll look to improve on a 2014 campaign that saw his walk rate and power tick up, his BABIP positively regress (thanks, in part, to an increase in line drive rate), his strikeout rate drop, and his defense improve.
Once we get past the unnerving offseason, the future still looks mighty bright for Castro.