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Cubs Fri Mar 18 2011

Cubs Await Castro's Bright Future at Shortstop

starlin castro.jpg

Starlin Castro / Tribune photo: Phil Velasquez

Starlin Castro made his major-league debut last May against the Cincinnati Reds. The past few years Cubs fans had been hearing about this kid shortstop and were wondering just what all the fuss was about. Well, Castro showed everyone what the Cubs brass already knew. In his first at-bat he hit a three-run homer and he added a three-run triple a few innings later. Not too shabby for a 19-year-old.

So where does he go from here?

Like many rookies coming off stellar first years, Castro is looking to avoid the proverbial sophomore slump, but what about next year and the year after that? As someone who watches this team on a daily basis, I think it is hard to envision the young Dominican's stock going anywhere but up.

Castro batted .300 in his rookie year. Not an easy task for anyone accomplish, rookie or veteran. Stat guru Bill James is predicting numbers similar to last year. I don't envision Castro becoming a home run machine as time goes on, but what I do feel is that he will hit for a high average as well as a high on-base percentage. If he hits the weight room and puts on a few pounds of muscle he should become a force at shortstop in the National League.

On defense, Castro has all the tools to be great, but he has to get way more consistent to catch the game's top shortstops. Crosstown counterpart Alexei Ramirez, for instance, finished second in the majors last year with a 10.1 UZR rating per 150 games. Castro had a minus-3.0 rating and 27 errors, second-most among major-league shortstops.

All too often, rookies especially let their mistakes in one phase of the game affect their play in other areas. Manager Mike Quade took notice of this late last season and early on this spring as well. The biggest thing holding Castro back from being a potential superstar in this league are his mental lapses. If he can overcome this issue, the world will be his oyster.

When figuring out what the future holds for Castro, I begin thinking of what other National League shortstops he reminded me of. I went down the list of quality shortstops from Hanley Ramirez to Jose Reyes to Edgar Renteria when it finally came to me while watching the Cubs exhibition game against the Dodgers. He reminds me of a young Rafael Furcal.

If you compare their rookie years, the resemblance is uncanny. Both were highly touted prospects who came up at a young age -- though Castro beat Furcal to the majors by four years. Furcal became one of the game's best shortstops. (If you recall, Jim Hendry tried to acquire him in free agency before he became a Dodger in 2006.)

Now Castro's future is in his own hands, and from my perspective it looks promising indeed.

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