I was asked on the radio recently to name a player that has been a fantasy disappointment in the first half that could turn it around. Matt Cain wound up being the topic, but later on, it got me thinking about Starlin Castro.
The Chicago Cubs' face of the franchise has regressed in his fourth full MLB season to the tune of a slash line of .228/.264/.318 with only three home runs and 24 RBIs in 311 at-bats.
He's arguably one of the biggest busts of the year to this point, because he was taken in drafts within the top three rounds. Shortstop scarcity made him that much more attractive coming into the year, after he hit .283 with 14 homers and 25 stolen bases in 2012.
Time to buy low
We tend to forget that Castro is only 23 years old and already has 600 career hits in the bigs. He spent only parts of two years in the minors and skipped Class AAA entirely. Castro only accrued 57 games at Double-A Tennessee before being called up to Chicago in 2010.
Because he was on the fast track to Wrigley, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein notes, Castro was never presented with adversity or failure on the diamond. He's surely being tested now. The Cubs are confident that this is just a needed bump in the road for their star shortstop and that he'll be better off in the end.
Does Castro have the makeup to handle a slump this prolonged? Has he given up on the season? If he bounces back, will this be a lost season?
The questions will continue to be asked. Castro's lackadaisical play has been documented, leading many to believe that he doesn't have the necessary mental capacity to dig himself out of the hole he's dug for himself this year. He continues to make bone-headed mental base-running and defensive gaffes, too.
Castro is trying to stay positive, though, and vows to keep working hard to break his funk. It's important that the organization is standing behind him, as well.
Can he put the team's struggles and his personal lack of production aside in order to make the necessary mechanical or mental adjustments to shake this slump? That remains to be seen.
Lofty hit rates in 2010 (.346) and 2011 (.344) buoyed his batting average to over .300 levels, so a drop in average last year thanks to a reduced hit rate (.314) wasn't a shocker.
The second-half growth in 2012 with his batting eye showed he still had room for growth. Unfortunately, his walk (3.7 percent) and strikeout (18.7 percent) rates have regressed to career lows.
Castro has never been a very patient hitter, but he makes enough contact to carry high batting averages. A career low .275 BABIP says he's been pretty unlucky this year, too. He's never had a BABIP under .300 in his professional career, including his minor league days.
Maybe all it'll take is a simple mechanical tweak. He has the talent to bust out of this, though, so in the end, it might come down to how determined he is to right the ship.
It's a perfect time to buy low on Castro, but only if his owner is willing to sell him for what his numbers have reflected this year, and not his preseason draft price.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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