Preps Talk

Kap: Appreciate Castro's talent


Kap: Appreciate Castro's talent

With Starlin Castro making his second appearance in the Mid-Summer Classic as an NL All-Star, it is time to look at just what the Cubs have in their 22-year-old shortstop.

He became the first major league player born in the 1990's when he was called up to the big leagues on May 7, 2010 from the Cubs Class AA affiliate in Tennessee. Castro exploded onto the major league scene by clubbing a three-run home run in his first big league at-bat off of the Cincinnati Reds' Homer Bailey and finished the night by driving in six runs, which is a major league record for a player making his debut.

Castro also finished his rookie season with 27 errors, which led the club and was second worst in the National League. He followed that up with 29 errors in 2011 as he led all major league shortstops in errors and he also had the lowest fielding percentage (.961).

Offensively, though, 2011 was a good year for Castro as he was the youngest player to ever lead the National League in hits, finishing the season with 207. Castro's jersey was sent to the Hall of Fame for his outstanding offensive performance as he hit .307 with a .341 OBP and a .432 slugging percentage and it was the first season in which he hit double digit home runs (10).

He has also come under criticism for his sometimes lackadaisical play including a memorable rant from then baseball analyst and now current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine who blasted Castro for a lack of concentration and focus in a nationally televised game on Sunday Night Baseball in 2011.

This season, Castro forgot how many outs there were in a loss to the San Francisco Giants and Cubs manager Dale Sveum was highly critical of the gaffe, telling the media after the game, Its the last straw. If he wants to play, he better start getting his head in the game. Period. Its not acceptable. These things have got to stop happening or were just going to stop playing. These are things that my son does in high school maybe.

Castro was very apologetic after the game and took full responsibility for his mental mistake.

Its very embarrassing, Castro said. These things cant happen. I apologize to my team and everybody, because that type of thing is not supposed to happen.

However, since that game, Castro is hitting a solid .284 and he has committed four of his 13 errors on the season since June 4th when the mental mistake happened. But more importantly, he has had no mental gaffes and Sveum loves the approach his shortstop has been taking.

I think Castro is one of those young players who come around once in a while who can be as good as they want to be," he said. "His ceiling is very high and he can do things every day to help us win ball games.

Another thing that must be considered and something that I may be guilty of, is expecting too much from a 22-year-old who is still developing and maturing and underestimating the time that it takes to transition from a kid in the Dominican Republic to a superstar in a city as tough as Chicago.

I cant imagine leaving my comfort zone and being dropped into a foreign country where I knew very few people, didnt speak the language and was in the public eye in an extremely visible way.

Add in the fact that he has a ton of expectations on him and that he is the face of one of the most visible franchises in professional sports and perhaps we should all be more understanding of his development process. It doesnt mean that he is immune to criticism nor should he be. That comes with the territory when you are a professional athlete.

However, we should also be very pleased that the Cubs have a standout player with his best years still ahead of him and we should appreciate the talent that he has.

Does he need to improve various aspects of his game? Absolutely. He needs to develop more power and more importantly, his plate approach has to improve. He needs to be more selective which should in turn lead to more productive at bats, an increased number of walks and a much higher on-base percentage.

He also needs to continue to improve his defense, but he has made progress and he looks like he is a keeper at shortstop unless he continues to grow and his size forces a position change similar to what happened to Alex Rodriguez.

All in all, Castro is a star and a building block for the Cubs and while he still needs seasoning and maturation, we should celebrate his bright future and be glad that by having him its one less piece of a championship team that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have to find.

Recruiting News and Notes: Wynston Russell verbally commits to Oregon State


Recruiting News and Notes: Wynston Russell verbally commits to Oregon State

Homewood-Flossmoor’s senior three star-ranked defensive back Wynston Russell (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) announced his verbal commitment to Oregon State via his Twitter account.

"I really like the coaches at Oregon State a lot and they played a big role in my decision," Russell said. "Coach Tibs (Tim Tibesar) and head coach (Jonathon) Smith along with the rest of the coaches at Oregon State are a newer staff and they are going to win a lot of games at Oregon State. On my official visit I was able to learn more about the great academic support system in place. The academic support that is offered at Oregon State is great and they also work hard on career planning and placement."

"Everyone on the official visit really bonded last weekend, and the guys already on the team also made us feel like part of the team already. The guys on the team are great guy. I also really liked the campus life at Oregon State. You have plenty of things to do but you can also focus on academics and you don't have a ton of distractions. I just felt very comfortable at Oregon State and that was another big part of my decision. I just felt like I fit in there."

Russell was holding multiple scholarship offers and also considered Wisconsin, Western Michigan and Toledo before giving the Beavers his commitment. 

Chicago Mount Carmel senior offensive guard recruit Marcelo Mendiola (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) impress the University of Cincinnati coaches at a recently-held North Central College satellite camp. A few weeks later Mendiola added a Bearcat offer, visited the campus and then gave Cincinnati his verbal commitment.

"It's (Cincinnati) just a great fit for myself and my family," Mendiola said. "We talked it over and I just have a lot in common with the coaches and the philosophy in the football program at Cincinnati. I looked hard at things like the overall depth chart and I'll have a chance to come in and earn early playing time."

Joliet Catholic senior offensive tackle Dave Monnot III (6-foot-6, 285 pounds) decided to give Purdue his verbal commitment after adding a camp offer from the Boilermakers. Monnot III camped at Purdue last Monday, added a Boilermakers offer last Thursday and immediately gave the Purdue staff his verbal commitment.

"One of the big things that sold me on (Purdue) was the coaching staff," Monnot III said. "I love the way Coach (Dale) Williams coaches. He's an Ohio guy and he's going to hold me accountable if I mess up, and that's something I look for in a coach. The final factor was the players (at Purdue). I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the players while I was there, but at my gym here at home, Rudy's, Evan Panfil used to go there, so I had his number. I gave him a call and asked him about his experience there and he sold me."

Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin senior three star-ranked offensive tackle Nick Broeker (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) decided earlier this week to give Ole Miss his verbal commitment. Broeker, who was holding 18 scholarship offers this summer pointed towards his connection to Ole Miss as one of his reasons on giving the Rebels his commitment.

"Ole Miss just has so much to offer," according to Broeker. "It's a great fit for me in so many ways. They play in the best conference in the nation in the SEC West. My goal has always been to play at the highest possible level in college and you can't find a higher level of college football than the SEC. Ole Miss offers a good education plus I just feel at home. Ole Miss offered and recruited me as an offensive tackle. I looked at several schools and in the end I found myself comparing everyone else to Ole Miss. My family is also really excited about Ole Miss and they also really loved it.


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.