This is a question that I have been thinking about for a couple of years now. Where should Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hit in the lineup? Right now, he appears to be a top of the order hitter, using his outstanding contact skills to allow him to get on base, so the guys in the middle of the order can drive him in. That being said, I question whether hitting Castro first or second now is really in his best interest for the future.
Castro has hit in many spots in the Cubs’ lineup this season. He has hit second for most of the season, third and fifth a handful of times and Friday night he hit led-off for the first time all season. In 320 career at bats, hitting first has probably been Castro’s best spot in the lineup. He has an average of .319 with an OPS (On base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .821. He has said in the past that he enjoys hitting at the top of the order. While he has not done it much in his career, he has had success there.
He has been in the second spot in the batting order for a majority of his career totaling 689 at bats. While hitting second, Castro is hitting .302 with an OPS of .766. While hitting third in 405 at bats, Castro has a career average of .257 and an OPS of .640. If Castro progresses the way that most of us expect, he will probably hit in one of the top three spots in the order. While he has hit in other lineup spots, I strongly believe his future is at first, second or third in the batting order.
While he has not hit for a great amount of power early in his career, only 30 home runs in 1,933 at bats, I think that Castro has an opportunity to grow some pop. Sometimes it is hard to forget, but Castro is only 23-years-old. He has his prime years ahead of him and as his body matures a little, I think that some of the doubles he hits will turn in to home runs. I do not expect huge home run totals, but I do not think that 25 a year is out of the question.
Personally, I do not like Castro hitting at the top of the order because he does not work the count enough. He has shown some improvement in this area, but a raw hitting talent like the Cubs have in Castro is better suited for the third spot. If he does get more power as he grows up, he would be a perfect hitter in the third spot of the batting order. That being said, is it best for him to be hitting third right now?
Obviously, the numbers show that he has been much better while hitting first or second in the early stages of his career. That being said, if the Cubs plan on him hitting third in the future, I would like to see him batting there now. I strongly believe that Castro’s future would be very bright hitting third in the Cubs line-up for years to come. Let that power grow naturally and allow the player to grow up in his batting order spot that his skills are perfect for. Also, I think that Anthony Rizzo is an excellent candidate for the clean-up role, so if you move him to the fourth spot and Castro to the third, you could have arguably the two most important spots in the batting order taken care of for a very long time.