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Chicago Cubs: Breaking down the 3,000-hit chances of former Cub Starlin Castro

Sep 29, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (14) doubles to deep left allowing a runner to score during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (14) doubles to deep left allowing a runner to score during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro had a few strong years for the team before things tailed off and he was traded. Now with the Yankees, are 3,000 hits possible?

Looking back just 14 months at the signing of now-World Series MVP Ben Zobrist, not much from that offseason seems to matter more. That deal brought a critical veteran presence into the mix. A gritty utility player who helped lead the Chicago Cubs to their first championship in 108 years.

But there was another notable move that took place in the wake of that signing. The trade that sent former franchise cornerstone Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees in exchange for swingman Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan.

Castro, who is now heading into his age-27 campaign, was once seen as the next great player in Cubs’ lore. By the time he was 25, he’d already appeared in three All-Star Games, took the field in no fewer than 158 games for three-straight seasons and tallied nearly 850 hits since breaking onto the scene at age 20.

The rapid decline

In his last season with the North-Siders, the Dominican-born Castro saw his OPS fall over 100 points from the year prior. That, coupled with the reputation for lacking mental focus, no doubt pushed his trade value down from its peak following his 207-hit sophomore year back in 2011.

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Chicago and New York hooked up again on a blockbuster deal at the deadline in 2016. The Cubs sent top infield prospect Gleyber Torres, among others (including Warren), to the Bronx in exchange for hard-throwing southpaw closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman’s place in baseball lore is now cemented. Perhaps a more underfollowed storyline is the pairing of Castro with Torres in New York.

Brian Cashman’s club faces an issue similar to that enjoyed by Epstein and his manager, Joe Maddon. A middle infield logjam. There are swirlings that Castro could be the odd-man out in the mix featuring Torres, Didi Gregorius, Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Torreyes.

But the three-time All-Star left a good taste in fans’ mouths last season. He clubbed a career-high 21 long-balls in 151 games for the Yankees in 2016. His power will no doubt pique the interest of manager Joe Girardi as his club looks to return to the top of the AL East standings this year.
In his first seven years in the bigs, Castro racked up 1,147 base hits. Twice breaking the 180-knock mark. When he was still in Chicago, fans were already speculating about his chances at making the 3,000 hit club. And, to be frank, it was one of the few bright spots for a Cubs team that was in the throes of a lengthy rebuild.

With no pressure, can he do it?

Now that he’s no longer carrying the weight of a century-long title drought on his shoulders, is it worth asking the question again? Could a former top prospect from Chicago have a realistic shot at baseball immortality?

Based on averages, Castro is good for roughly 178 hits per season. If he played to his age 38 season at this pace (which is admittedly a long-shot), that comes out to another 1,958 base knocks – bringing his career total to 3,105.

It’s not unthinkable that Castro could match this pace. He’s tailed off notably since his first three years in the league when he averaged 176 hits. That’s despite appearing in just 125 games his rookie campaign. In the four years since he’s come up with just 154 hits per season. A far cry from what he’ll need to put together to make a run at 3,000.

Another 11 years at that pace puts him at a grand total of just over 2,800 hits for his career. A respectable mark, but given his sub-par career OBP (.318) and other peripherals any Hall chances would be long-gone.

Still plenty of time for Starlin

He’s never been regarded as a plus-defender and his power game has been sporadic throughout his career. Still, just 26 years of age, he has a chance to step up and be a big part of a Yankees’ offense that is getting younger with each passing season.

Next: Who wins the last rotation spot?

For a large part of his career, Castro has been remarkably healthy. A trend that seems unlikely to continue for an entire decade. Taking into account potential injuries, an infield situation in New York that makes his future past 2019 uncertain. And his ups-and-downs to this point, it seems safe to say that he’ll probably never reach the potential Cubs’ fans once believed he had. He’s a sure bet for 2,500 hits – an accomplishment in and of itself. But the glory and eternal fame that we once held for Starlin Castro is a thing of the past. He has been – and always will be – a solid piece for a contending team. But he’s no Hall of Famer – and he’ll never see 3,000 hits.

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