As unbearable as it may have been to watch the Cubs at times last season, Starlin Castro provided the one bright spot with his breakout season.
Heading into 2012, he’s seen as a building block of these revamped Cubs and the youth movement taking place on the North Side this season.
Though we’ve barely crept into February, the question over where Starlin will hit in Dale Sveum‘s batting order has already become the topic of much discussion. We do know that it’ll be somewhere in the top three, but where?
Castro had a fantastic season at the plate in 2011, playing in 158 games and notching 207 hits on the year. He hit .307 and got on base at a .341 clip. But digging a little deeper, we can see how well he hit in each of the top three spots in the batting order.
Most assume Starlin will hit in the three spot, because that’s where your best hitter typically hits. But of the top three spots in the batting order, that was where he posted the worst batting average.
Of his 674 at bats in 2011, 312 came from the leadoff spot. In the top spot in the order, Castro hit .327. In the two hole, his average was a very good .335 in 176 at bats. But hitting in the third spot, Castro’s average dropped off dramatically, hitting just .225 in 178 ABs from the three spot.
Obviously, this is something that isn’t going to be decided until spring, when we know where other guys are going to be hitting throughout the order. The fact that there has been such a turnover in the roster this winter makes it even more difficult to predict where Starlin could hit.
Assuming we know what the starting lineup will look like this season, we can figure out where some guys will hit. If Alfonso Soriano is around, he’ll likely hit four or five in the order, wherever Bryan LaHair doesn’t hit. Geovany Soto and Darwin Barney will likely hit seventh and eighth, respectively.
That leaves four more to figure out. Ian Stewart is obviously going to fill that sixth spot in the order and David DeJesus has been mentioned often as a leadoff candidate. That just leaves Castro and Marlon Byrd, assuming the latter is still in a Cubs uniform by Opening Day.
The two could really be interchangeable there, but I think the most likely destination for Castro, at least to start the season, is that third spot in the order. It’s reserved for your best hitter, which Castro is, especially when you look up and down at the rest of the lineup.
Of course, we won’t know for sure until the spring really gets going and the Cubs see what else they have in the order from some of these new guys. But as of right now, it looks like Castro could be headed for the no. 3 spot.