Everyone remembers the name, Starlin Castro. It was what the Chicago Cubs were about. But lo and behold, time took the Cubs superstar and put him somewhere else.
Everyone who was on the Chicago Cubs’ bandwagon prior to their World Series run in 2016 remembers the name Starlin Castro. Castro served as the Cubs’ primary shortstop from the time he made his major league debut on May 7, 2010, until the latter part of the 2015 season. That is when a new face, Addison Russell, took over the gig, a position he still occupies to this day.
It did not take long for Castro to make an impression in the major leagues. Born on March 24, 1990, the youngster became the first professional baseball player born in the 1990’s to make his big league debut. In his first big league action, Castro set the MLB for most RBI by a player making his major league debut with six against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cubs won 14-7 that day and Castro collected two hits, one of which was his first major league home run and the other was his first big league triple.
Castro put up good offensive numbers as a Cub
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The 2010 Cubs lost 87 games during the 2010 season, finishing in fifth place in the NL Central, 16 games back.
On a team that featured Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot and Marlon Byrd, Castro put up the best numbers despite spending the first month of the season in the minors. The 20-year-old slashed .300/.347/.408 with 31 doubles, 41 RBI and a completely league average 100 OPS-plus.
In the years that followed, Castro maintained his solid offensive work, posting a .278/.317/.404 slash from 2011 until the end of the 2015 season. Over that same time span, Castro was a slightly below average hitter as he posted an OPS-plus of 97 in 766 games and never finished a season with a mark higher than 115.
It was troubling times for the Cubs
Despite averaging only 13 home runs per 162 games during that stretch, Castro always had a knack for getting on base. As a 21-year-old in 2011, Castro led the majors with 207 hits, helping the youngster earn his first of four All-Star game appearances.
While Castro has not reached 200 hits again, he averaged 180 knocks per 162 games from 2010-2017.
All of Castro’s offensive success as a member of the Cubs came on a team that averaged a 73-88 from 2010-2015. There were times during that stretch that the Cubs even failed to make it to 73 wins. From 2011-2013, the North Sider’s won 71, 61 and 66 games despite Castro making two All-Star teams in those years.
Castro was never a defensive stud
With the slick fielding play of Russell at the shortstop position since late 2015, it’s easy to forget the lackluster defense at times from Castro. During his rookie campaign, Castro led the National League with 27 errors, finishing well below league average in defensive runs saved.
As his career progressed with the Cubs, things did not smooth out of the young shortstop. Castro recorded 29 errors in 2011 before logging another 27 during the 2012 season. In fact, it took until the 2014 season for Castro to record less than 20 errors in a season as he committed 15 and 18 errors at shortstop during the 2014 and 2015 seasons respectively.
The trade and how Cubs’ fans will remember Castro
Growing up during the time that Castro was a Cub, I never really paid attention to the errors. During that time, it was hard to focus on one specific aspect of a team that was barely able to win 60 games a year.
With that being said, Castro was the best player on the Cubs’ roster not named Anthony Rizzo until the wave of prospects started appearing on the scene in 2014 and 2015.
It was that wave of prospects and the pursuit of better that prompted the Cubs to trade their former star player to the New York Yankees prior to the 2016 season. With Ben Zobrist in hand, and Javier Baez and Russell already on the roster, there was no remaining room for the player Cubs’ fans once clamored over.
I can not speak for all of Cubs’ nation, but every time I hear Castro’s name (now a member of the Miami Marlins), I can not stop myself from thinking back to a time when the Cubs were a last place team and the only ray of hope on the roster was a young man named Starlin.
During the early part of his career, Castro gave fans hope that their team could be better and that things didn’t always have to be bad for the Lovable Losers. He was a true cornerstone of the franchise before the true rise of Rizzo and later, Kris Bryant. That is why fans will always cheer when they get to see Castro at Wrigley Field.
Castro’s career as a whole
The 28-year-old’s career is nowhere near its end. Castro is still the everyday second baseman for the Marlins and currently an above average hitter with a 106 OPS-plus.
As mentioned above, Castro always had the skill to get a base-knock. However, from 2015-2017, Castro averaged just 145 hits per season, perhaps derailing what could have been a bid for 3,000 career hits. Currently, Castro has 1,337 hits and is 1,663 away from reaching that career milestone. With that being said, let’s say Castro averages 180 hits a season for the rest of his career. At that pace, it would take him another nine seasons to reach 3,000 base hits.
I, for one, will be rooting for Castro and I know many more people who will be cheering him on as well.