Coming into the 2014 season, all eyes in Chicago and around baseball were focused on Starlin Castro. After struggling in his first three games, Castro is starting to hit once again for the Chicago Cubs. This year, Castro will get back to basics and start hitting like he did when he first broke into the league. However, when evaluating the shortstop, the most basic attribute will be patience.
After going 1-13 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Castro has started to break out in his first two games at Wrigley Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. He has gone 4-8 thus far over the weekend, with an RBI and a three-hit game against a difficult lefty in Cliff Lee. Under the guidance of coaches Rick Renteria, Bill Mueller and Eric Hinske, Castro will get back to the form and success he once had during his rookie season. It will simply take time and patience for the 24-year- old co-face of the franchise.
Castro’s slow start could stem from missing a big chunk of time during Spring Training while he was nursing a leg injury. The series in Pittsburgh were essentially his spring reps. Four hits may not seem like a giant leap in progress, but for a player looking for much-needed positive results, four hits are key in progression. With continued reps and development, the batting average will start to rise as well for Castro.
Another attribute could be that Castro is also back hitting in the No. 2 spot in the Cubs’ order. For my money, Castro is slotted best within the lineup in either the No. 2 spot or the No. 6 spot. He does not have the eye to be a lead off hitter, and his power is not enough to be in the No. 3 or No. 4 position. At this stage, the Cubs do not have enough pieces to slide him down in the order where he first broke into the league. This year, he should continue to bat second ahead of Anthony Rizzo for optimal results.
However, once players like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant join the everyday lineup, Castro could then slide down and be able to hit without all of the pressure of carrying an offense. When Castro was a rookie, he was a free-swinging youngster who simply played the game and set the bar so high, he eventually had to come back down slightly.
Last season, Castro’s numbers were really not as bad as perceived when compared to other players at his position. But when you factor in the team that sorely needed him to be superman and the start he had as a rookie, suddenly the numbers appear to be lacking. Castro will get back to that form once again in 2014, it will just take patience. It will take patience with his reps at the plate, and also patience from the organization. The four hits this weekend are a good sign of that progress.