Calling up Starlin Castro a good gamble for Cubs

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starlin castro running.jpgAnother team would have waited three weeks. That’s about when a club can call up a top prospect without any service time and not have to worry about him becoming super-two eligible after his second full year in the majors.
The Cubs, though, had reasons not to procrastinate. Sure, those three weeks may seem like a small time to have waited if Castro ends up costing them an extra $10 million-$15 million over four years of arbitration eligibility. But there’s a slight chance it’ll mean the difference between reaching the postseason in 2010 and staying home in October.
Besides, Castro, for all of his positives, isn’t Tim Lincecum or Matt Wieters or Jason Heyward. He’s certainly not going to have any 30-homer seasons in his mid-20s. If he hits more than 15 homers in 2012, it’d be an upset. He should hit for average and steal some bases, but he’s not the kind of player the arbitration process tends to reward most handsomely. Odds are that it will be several years before he makes a real dent in the Cubs’ lofty budget.
So the money isn’t that big of a deal. And Castro may well be able to help out right away. When he’s just 20 — and he just hit that number on March 24 — he was off to a .376/.421/.569 start at Double-A Tennessee. He makes a ton of contact and is adept at fighting off breaking balls, so he doesn’t strike out very often. He also doesn’t walk much, but he seems to be improving there. Dating back to last year, he’s walked 19 times in 220 at-bats in Double-A, matching his total in 358 at-bats from high-A ball.
Castro is a poor basestealer for someone with above average speed, but that will change with coaching. On defense, he’s occasionally spectacular and he should be a modest improvement on Ryan Theriot. As he continues to fill out, he may face a move to second base someday. His range isn’t an issue yet, though.
The Cubs can plug Castro into the eighth spot in the lineup and see what happens. If he struggles, then they’ll still have Mike Fontenot as a fallback. Castro is so young that an early major league failure would hardly dim his prospects. The Cubs have hurt themselves by rushing prospects in the past, and I still think they’re making a mistake with Tyler Colvin, even though he’s provided ample production in his limited action.
Castro, though, doesn’t have the kind of game that’s going to fall apart just because he’s facing pitchers capable of painting the black and throwing breaking balls in any count. He’s not going to challenge Jason Heyward for Rookie of the Year honors, but he could hit .280/.340/.400 and be an asset as an everyday player the rest of the way.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.