If this is the true identity of the Cubs' 24-year-old shortstop (HE'S STILL JUST 24 AND HE'S A TWO TIME ALL-STAR), the people will rejoice.
Through the full month of April, Starlin Castro hit .308/.339/.471. That is very good -- about 22 percent better than the average hitter, according to wRC+. At his current PA/HR rate, Castro could end the year with 25 home runs, assuming he gets to his usual 700. He's walking just enough, and striking out rarely.
Last season was a miserable one for Castro at the plate, and a big reason why was because Starlin struck out so often. After three years of striking out about 14 percent of the time, that rate shot up to more than 18 percent -- about 30 additional strikeouts over a full season. Had those balls been put in play instead, Castro could've expected about 10 more hits, which would have pushed his average from .245 to .260.
Castro also showed less power last year. In each of his first two full seasons, he hit 55 extra base hits. In '13, that number fell to 46.
BUT 2013 IS SO LAST YEAR. This is 2014 now! And Castro is hitting with authority.
In the same way that strikeouts were a problem for Starlin in 2013, Castro's ability to avoid the K is a big part of his success this year. He's struck out in less than 12 percent of his plate appearances thus far, giving him one of the 30 lowest K-rates in the league.
Of those 30 players, only about a dozen have shown more power than Castro this season based on ISO. Starlin's .163 ISO through 26 games would be the best of his young career by far were he able to sustain it.
There's an obvious next question: can he sustain this? I have a counter-question: does he have to?
Even if Starlin starts striking out a bit more, and some of that early power recedes, I think it's still very likely based on the underlying skills he's displayed thus far that he can reach his ZiPS projection -- a .287/.324/.427 slash, making him a 3-win shortstop. You take that every damn time with him (he had a negative fWAR last year!).
If you think he can keep that strikeout rate low -- say, 12.6% instead of the 14.9% projected in ZiPS -- you can bump that avg and that slg up to .295 and .435 respectively. And if you think he can hit more than 16 home runs, now we're talking about another potential All-Star season.
April was a great month for Starlin. I hope he can do it again in each of the next five.
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