While the headlines from Cubs camp this spring have focused on Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva, Patrick Mooney at CSN Chicago has a nice feature on the guy who, more than any other, may catapult the Cubs back into relevance in the NL Central: Starlin Castro, who is being compared to Derek Jeter in Chicago, both from a marketing perspective and from a developmental perspective:
The marketing department at 1060 W. Addison St. wants to promote Starlin Castro as the next Derek Jeter. They paired the two homegrown shortstops on billboards modeled after heavyweight prize fights: Cubs vs. Yankees, June 17-19 at Wrigley Field … Cubs baseball staffers use the Jeter analogy in a much different context. They tell you to look up how many errors Jeter committed in the minors. That tension between patience and expectations can be felt through the entire organization.
The marketing stuff is fluff. Ultimately he’ll be no more marketable than his on-field performance allows him to be. As for that performance: despite some defensive struggles and a come-to-Quade meeting regarding his focus this spring, Castro seems ready to break out. He was hitting .485 with a .500 on-base percentage and an .848 slugging percentage through this past weekend.
More significantly, he destroyed Double-A pitching last year and more than held his own as a 20-year-old in the bigs. That’s roughly the same course Jeter took, though he didn’t truly produce in the bigs until his star-making age-22 season. In terms of production, Castro is a bit ahead of Jeter, actually.
There are big things coming from this guy.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.