- Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Remember when Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was used as a No. 5 hitter toward the end of the 2012 MLB season? It was an awkward strategy that didn’t maximize the amount of at-bats for their up-and-coming superstar. At the same time, Luis Valbuena was getting at-bats as the No. 2 hitter.
That experiment is over. Cubs manager Dale Sveum has confirmed that while it’s not official, Castro will probably start the season as the No. 2 hitter. Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano will likely follow him as the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, respectively.
Using Castro as the No. 2 hitter makes sense. Rizzo has shown that he can handle the responsibilities that come as a No. 3 hitter. In 2012, Rizzo had 337 at-bats. 321 of them came as the No. 3 hitter.
Castro finished his third season with somewhat disappointing numbers. While Castro increased his home run output to 14, his batting average (.283) and on-base percentage (.323) both regressed from his first two seasons. Furthermore, Castro was caught stealing on nearly 35 percent of his attempts.
Don’t expect those trends to continue. Now that Castro has financial security from his seven-year, $60 million contract, he can concentrate more on his game than his paycheck or his family’s well-being. At age 23 (in March), Castro is bound to have his breakout season anytime.
Rizzo should get plenty of RBI opportunities. David DeJesus is a leadoff hitter who has the potential for an OBP of .350-plus. Castro will create his own excitement toward the top of the lineup. Both of these players will get on base. It’s up to Rizzo and Soriano to hit them home.
Hopefully, Sveum doesn’t use Castro as a No. 5 hitter anytime soon. At least, not until some prospects start challenging for those higher spots on the lineup card.