On a quiet, relatively uneventful Saturday, I flipped over to MLB Network to kill some time and caught the feature on the top ten shortstops in baseball heading into the 2015 season. It immediately got my attention and I anxiously awaited the announcing of Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
And I waited.
And I waited some more, only to find out that according to the network’s statistical number cruncher known as “The Shredder,” Castro is not a top ten shortstop. Yet, the likes of Jordy Mercer, Jed Lowrie and Erick Aybar all made the rankings.
Now, to me, that’s a head-scratcher.
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, it was no wonder that, heading into last season, the young Chicago infielder did not receive much recognition. However, after earning his third All-Star selection in five big league seasons in 2015, it’s hard to explain why he was left off this list yet again.
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Last season, Castro missed the final month after sustaining a high ankle injury, but despite the missed action, he still tied a career-high with 14 home runs, while driving in 65 runs.
Still just 25 years old, the infielder showed signs of returning to his dominant form of just three years’ prior, when he eclipsed 200 hits for the first – and only- time in his career. During his five big league campaigns, he’s averaged 185 base hits per 162 games – among the league leaders for his position.
Despite appearing in just 134 games in 2015, Castro ranked sixth among National League shortstops in terms of base hits, third in doubles and first in batting average – keeping in mind Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowutzki missed over half the season with a hip injury.
When you broaden the field to include the American League, as well, the Cubs shortstop ranked 10th in terms of WAR (2.9) – despite his less-than-stellar work with the glove.
Furthermore, he led all big league shortstops in average (.292), while coming in second in terms of on-base percentage (.339) amongst qualified players.
It’s clear that his offensive talent isn’t what’s under consideration here. It’s his defensive work. And for good reason.
Based upon the UZR measure, which, according to Fangraphs, attempts to, “puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof),” Castro ranked 16th amongst big league shortstops, while coming in 16th in terms of DRS (defensive runs saved) – costing Chicago seven runs with his glove work.
And it is for this reason, I imagine, that ‘The Shredder’ left Castro out of the top ten shortstops in Major League Baseball. That being said, if he can stay healthy in 2015 and improve – at least a bit – defensively, he should find himself amongst the league’s best come next spring.