Spring training is just more than one month away for the 2013 MLB season. The Chicago Cubs will try to improve from a 2012 season when they finished with a 61-101 record. They’re anticipating that Starlin Castro, who’ll turn 23 in March, takes his next step toward becoming one of the most complete hitters in baseball.
One thing that may affect Castro is how manager Dale Sveum uses him in his lineups. Toward the end of last season, Sveum used Castro as the No. 5 hitter. In 191 at-bats, Castro had a .359 on-base percentage (OBP) with a .298 batting average, 22 RBI and three home runs.
Where else could Castro hit? In 2012, he had 217 at-bats as the No. 2 hitter. He had 227 at-bats as the No. 3 hitter. In each of those samples, Castro finished with a .306 OBP. Surprisingly, he showed more power as the No. 2 hitter (nine homers) than as the No. 3 hitter (two homers).
Is that coincidence? Or was Castro more comfortable toward the bottom half of the lineup?
The Cubs need a No. 5 hitter. However, it’s more important that they get production from their leadoff men. Castro is easily one of the best hitters on this team. As a No. 5 hitter, Sveum isn’t maximizing the amount of at-bats that Castro has in any game. And when the batting order rolls back to the top during the final innings of a game, isn’t it better if Castro is toward the top instead of David DeJesus or Nate Schierholtz?
Castro should start the season as either a No. 2 hitter or No. 3 hitter. If Sveum wanted to get funky, then use Tony Campana as the No. 9 hitter. That would allow Sveum to move each of his best hitters up one spot. Of course, Campana’s noodle arm is a significant liability in the outfield.
Here’s a projected Opening Day lineup:
CF DeJesus / Campana
RF Schierholtz / DeJesus
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
3B Luis Valbuena / Ian Stewart
C Welington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney