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.
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.