Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro looking to take game to next level

Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro looking to take game to next level

Starlin Castro spoke to the media today and he appears determined to take his game to the next level by improving his all-around game, particularly on defense.

You can read some of the quotes here as Paul Sullivan of the Tribune did a nice job getting the quotes down and you can see part of the interview here. Castro spoke English in the interview.  He's getting much better at it, by the way, but still not sure he always expressed himself the way he wanted to.  Its difficult to get nuances across when you are speaking a second language.  Would still liked to have heard an interview in Spanish.

Quotes are stated as is and I just added my own analysis to them.

On Defense

Castro said one of his goals is to win a Gold Glove.  He knows he has a natural, god-given ability to hit but that he has to work hard "to be like Barney" on defense.  He also believes teammate Anthony Rizzo can win the award this season.

“It’s good motivation for me. I know like I can be like those guys and play very good defense.”

Part of that involves cutting down on mental lapses.  He plans on concentrating on the game plan and to be as "perfect" as possible.  His manager Dale Sveum acknowledged this as a key and was actually the one who challenged him to win a Gold Glove this season,

“It’s one thing I challenged him to do,” manager Dale Sveum said. “’Your next step now is to win a Gold Glove.’ Obviously that takes a lot of focus and hard work, and being focused for 150 pitches a game over 162 games. He’s got the ability to do it. The rest is up to him.”

Last season, Castro showed flashes of brilliance at shortstop yet remained inconsistent.  He was prone to make errors in bunches, particularly in the first and last months of the season.  Still, the overall improvement was remarkable.  Castro went from a -8.8 UZR/150, which is well below average to -0.9 last season, which is roughly a league average shortstop.  Even after the slow start, there was a long period during the season where his UZR/150 was in the positive range, which indicates an above average defender.

Sveum noticed the improvement, despite his well-publicized lapse against the Giants where he turned his back to the infield,

“Besides obviously a couple lapses, and that (Giants game) was obviously a very noticeable one… he improved tremendously throughout the season,” Sveum said. “Hopefully he keeps improving. That’s all we’re asking for from him.”

On hitting for more power

As far as offense goes, Castro wants to be a more well-rounded player,

“I want to be everything. Power, steal more bases, hit for average...I know last year I hit (.283), but I know I’m not that kind of hitter,” he said. “I know I can hit more than that. This year it’s going to be a good year for my approach.”

I like that he wants to add power to his game, but I'm especially excited that Castro mentioned his approach as well.  In many ways, the two things go hand in hand. I don't expect Castro to become a walk machine, but I do expect him to try and get himself into more favorable counts.  That can help him hit for more power and perhaps a side effect will be that he has an incremental improvement in walks -- I'd settle for a major league average of 7-8%. Given his ability to hit for average, that should result in something around a .350 OBP.

Adding power to his game will be a key for the Cubs lineup this year.  Castro has shown flashes of it early in his career and he has raised his ISO% and HR total every year since coming into the league...

  • 2010: .108 ISO%, 3 HRs
  • 2011: .125 ISO%, 10 HRs
  • 2012: .147 ISO%, 14 HRs

Castro makes hard contact consistently as he has the natural ability to square up the baseball.  He's still young and, as he matures physically,  some of those doubles and deep fly outs may become HRs.  Many spring observers have said he has filled out his frame and looks noticeably bigger. That alone should help but as mentioned above, getting ahead in the count and seeing more fastball strikes will also be a key..

On the team's success

Castro is optimistic about the team chances, largely based on the starting pitching.

“Some people think our team won’t be very good,” he said. “But I think this team is pretty good because we’ve got four good starters. If you’ve got four good starters, you can compete with any team.”

As for his own role,

“I’ll be (a bigger) superstar than I am,” he said. “I know that I can be what I’m supposed to be in the future. I know I can be very good because I’ve never been lazy. I work hard and be better every day.”

This is odd wording and I have to think there was something lost here.

To me, I think Castro is aware enough to know that his own improvement is tied in with the Cubs success.  He has confidence in his ability and his work ethic -- and that will lead to him being a better ballplayer. But it's not just work ethic, Castro acknowledged he needs improvement with is approach.  His manager agreed.  Per Sullivan,

Sveum said Castro could increase his 14 home runs, but he really wants him to be “more of a winning type” of hitter, understanding game situations and grinding out at-bats instead of rolling over on the first pitch.

If Castro can learn to do that, then improvement will come not just in his own numbers, but his overall impact on the success of the team.

Filed under: Spring Training

Tags: Starlin Castro


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  • fb_avatar

    I'm happy that he is signed long term. This is the right kind of attitude for a young and talented player to have. Once Soriano and Marmol move on after this year or next, he may be ready to step into a veteran leadership role.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    The operative words are "may be".

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Those are the operative words for life.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I'm happy as well and it's a deal that will make him very valuable to the Cubs. I like his attitude as well, seems to want to work for it and it would be ideal if he someday took on a leadership role, especially considering the position he plays.

  • fb_avatar

    I really do think this is his year. I'm going to go out on a limb with a monster season with the bat. (.310/.360/.480 with 20+ HRs) If he can add a Gold Glove to that? He's at least in the MVP conversation.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. That puts him in the elite category of SS.

  • Hit 300, OBP around 350 15-20 hr 80 rbi 20 sb, keep errors under 20, Castro will be a top 3 SS in the NL next year. Nice to see he has the drive and desire to be great.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I'll take that. It really does seem like he's maturing. I like that he has that confidence too. You need that in an MLB player.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Just thought I'd point out Castro already was a top 3 shortstop in the NL last year. The only other shortstop to have better numbers than Castro last year was Ian Desmond. If Castro puts up the numbers we all hope he will, he may be the best shortstop in baseball period.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:


  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    By sheer numbers he was. But oftentimes perception can be important as reality. The perception is Bobby Valentines cheap shot of Castro not paying attention, which can undermine his real value.

  • I like Castro (for the most part) as he is. The defense will most likely improve. It really is all about focus at this point. He has the tools and knows the game plan. (Or should.)

    I do think he will look at more pitches, but I wonder if it will be to his advantage or detriment. As much as I like the walk, I think he is a guy I would prefer to simply be more of a zone hitter, as I love the gap power and speed he displays.

    Stolen bases? I wonder if that will increase or decline as well. I'm wondering if he will be more like a Hanley Ramirez or actually carve out his own niche completely at the position.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I was wondering about the decline in SBs as well. He seems to be filling out his frame and sometimes that means slowing down. He was never a burner to begin with so he can't afford to lose much of his above average speed and still be a SB threat.

  • fb_avatar

    The sky is the limit for Castro. It's remarkable when you really put into perspective that at his age most players are still prospects working on their game in the minors yet here he is a top 10 SS. And hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential.

    It's pretty scary actually. Were talking about a 23yr old guy reaching elite status and it's not like were hoping he will, most of us kind of just expect him to. That's how talented he is.

  • Seem to recall Lou Pinella raving about how humble he was and because of that and his work ethic & drive, he expected him to reach his potential.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I remember that as well.

  • Wouldn't that be cool if Barney, Rizzo and Castro all got GG awards. I think it definitely is possible for Barney and Rizzo but Castro getting it is hard to imagine. If he just gets in the picture I will be very happy.

  • In reply to John57:

    That'd be very cool. Would burn up Brandon Philips to lose it again, too :)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Phillips has lost a lot of respect for his recent comments about losing the GG to Barney. Statistically it was his worse defensive season since '09. It would make me happy to see him lose it again.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Exactly. Barney put up better numbers. The only way Philips wins it last year is with reputation and flash...which seems cheap to me.

    I also don't buy the argument that positioning won it for Barney. Hard for me to believe he and the Cubs are so much better at this than the rest of the league. And even if he is better at it, so what? He's making more plays which is the only thing that matters.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    If I were Phillips Id worry more about my declining range and my declining ability to turn the DP. Your right, last year Phillips by fielding metrics ranked 4th amongst NL 2b.

  • Why no love for Stewart? He's a golden glover also!

  • In reply to PeteG:

    OK maybe Stewart can shoot for one too. While we are at it, how is Shark at fielding his position? Let's go for 5 in the infield. :)

  • In reply to John57:

    I know Garza stinks as a fielder.

  • In reply to PeteG:

    If he hits enough to stay in the lineup he may have a shot too.

  • I wonder what is the most gold gloves awarded to a team in the same season ?

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    Not sure about team, but the middle infield duos of Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion won it 4 years in a row (74-77) and the Orioles had Mark Belanger and Bobby Grich do the same feat at almost the exact same time (73-76). That's kind of crazy. Wouldn't it be something if Barney and Castro could even half that?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I never thought I would hear Castro and Barney mentioned in the same breath as those 2 combinations . Morgan, Concepcion and Grich and Belanger were the best 2 tandems of the 70's. I like Barney but I'm not going to put him in the Morgan, Grich category quite yet.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    I think the Bluejays had 4 back in the early 90s(R Alomar, Fernandez, Gruber, D White). That's the most I personally remember.

  • He says "we have four good starters." That has to make somebody feel good about himself at the back end...

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Well - assuming they are all healthy to start the season,... they DO have 4 good starters,...

    They also have some talent to backfill spots 4 & 5 IF on of those top 4 falters or is injured.

    Don't know if they have a true #1 starter this season (as matter of fact - I would argue they don't),.... but they have have several average or better #2/#3 type starters. I hope that Spellcheck or Garza (if not traded) prove me wrong on that front though.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Haha! I didn't think of it that way. I'm going to guess he's going with what he knows. He's probably not that familiar with the 3 AL guys. Maybe he'll change it to 7 by midseason -- and then 4 again by the end of the season once a few get traded.

  • Yeah, I saw that too! Funny!

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