Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 4:35 p.m.
By David Kaplan
While Starlin Castro has future star written all over him it is obvious that his defense has a much longer development period compared to his offense (which appears to already be at or near All Star level.) Castros plate approach is outstanding and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo admits Castro is one of the best he has seen at his age.
So then the question that must be asked is this. What position is he best suited to play that will maximize his skills and allow him the best chance for development both offensively and defensively? Castro has committed a large number of errors this season after a rookie campaign that saw him commit 27 errors, many on routine plays. He has tremendous range and a solid arm but he rushes himself on plays that should be routine for a major league shortstop. He has also shown questionable decision making which can be more of a problem from shortstop than it would be from second base where the throw is usually much shorter.
So if he was to make a position switch would it be better to do it early in his career or would it be better to wait until he develops more as a hitter and to see how his body develops? Should he outgrow shortstop he may need to make a move anyway so what is the best plan of attack for him?
Darwin Barney has spent the majority of his career at short and is considered a plus fielder at the position on the baseball scouting scale. In fact, Barney only played 14 games at second base during his days in the minors and most scouts that I have spoken with believe that he would be a solid major league shortstop. Why not then move Castro to second base where he would have less pressure on him defensively and move Barney to his more natural position of shortstop. Plus, Barneys offensive skill set translates better at short than it does at second where most teams are looking to have more of a run producer.
The Cubs say they want to leave Castro at shortstop because it is his natural position and he feels most comfortable there. However, the Cubs had a guy who was a natural shortstop but made the move to second base and flourished both offensively and defensively. Ryne Sandberg spent one season at third base and then moved to second where he played All-Star caliber baseball for the rest of his career culminating in induction into the baseball Hall of Fame. Im not ready to say that Castro can be as good as Sandberg but there are similarities between the two and with Castros defensive questions the idea is not that far-fetched. After all isnt the idea to get the most out of Castro as possible and perhaps less pressure on him defensively is the right way to go. Its at least worth considering.
David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.