Has Starlin Castro Found a Home in the Lineup?


Sept. 30, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs batter Starlin Castro (13)singled to left center in the first inning against Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

Starlin Castro is a bad number three hitter. There, I said it. Not only did the numbers say the 22-year-old Short Stop isn’t a three-hole guy (.282/.306/.388), but the good ol’ eyes do as well, as it was easy to notice him swinging at pitches which were never in the strike zone. Yes, the .282 batting average in 56 games isn’t exactly terrible, but when the OBP and SLG are taken into consideration, he did nothing but hit a few singles. Let’s just say that if this writer here had the power to create Dale Sveum’s 2013 lineup, Starlin Castro would not spend one game as a number three hitter.
So the question arises: Where will Starlin Castro hit in the lineup? He did succeed as a leadoff hitter in 2011, when he racked up 200-plus hits, but he also lacks the OBP skills to be a productive number one. The answer is clearer than you’d think. After the callup of Anthony Rizzo in late June, Castro was moved to fifth in the order – and he excelled to a line of .298/.359/.440 in just 6 games less than in the three-hole.
The young Short Stop has shown that offensively he is more of a run producer than a table setter, and in a weak lineup he was able to drive in 78 runs.
To put Castro’s success in perspective, I decided to compare him to other guys who had playing time in the fifth spot for their teams in 2012. Let the numbers speak to you:

Corey Hart: .269/.330/.517
Hanley Ramirez: .268/.325/.455
David Freese: .268/.324/.460

The biggest difference between Castro and these other three bona fide five-hole-hitters is the slugging percentage. Hart and Freese profile as corner infielders, which is a position that demands more power. Castro can easily match the OBP and surpass the batting average by maybe thirty points – all while playing a premium position. The real comparison is made when Ramirez is brought into the question. Can Starlin Castro slug enough to match Ramirez? I say yes, as his power continues to increase as his body develops and matures. Starlin Castro can be as potent a 5th hitter as these three guys no later than 2013.