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November 2009

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State of the System: Shortstop

Written by , Posted in General

We continue to trip through the system today with a look at the SS position.

If you’ve missed the first few editions of the series, here are some links as well as the schedule for the week:

C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B (Tues) / OF (Wed) / Righty SP (Thur) / Lefty SP (Fri)

Age PA ▾ R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Theriot, Ryan 29 MAJ 677 81 20 5 7 54 21 10 51 93 .284 .343 .369 .712
Castro, Starlin 19 H-A,AA,win 569 68 25 7 4 57 32 13 32 59 .312 .355 .410 .765
Barney, Darwin 23 AA,AAA 513 55 24 1 3 49 9 2 36 65 .293 .339 .369 .708
Lake, Junior 19 L-A 491 71 19 7 7 42 10 7 18 138 .248 .277 .365 .642
#Blanco, Andres 25 AAA,MAJ,win 485 61 33 4 8 57 12 4 30 50 .289 .338 .441 .779
#Gonzalez, Marwin 20 H-A,win 463 45 16 4 2 34 9 8 26 78 .242 .288 .312 .600
Mota, Jonathan 22 AA,win 397 35 19 3 2 24 3 6 38 60 .243 .332 .334 .667
*Lee, Hak-Ju 18 SS 304 56 14 2 2 33 25 8 31 50 .330 .399 .420 .820
#Alcantara, Arismendy 17 ROK 293 44 11 8 3 32 20 2 30 47 .275 .349 .415 .764
#Bautista, Robert 20 ROK,L-A 201 28 5 6 1 18 15 3 11 70 .208 .255 .317 .572
LeMahieu, DJ 20 L-A,ROK 182 21 4 3 0 34 3 2 13 25 .323 .376 .384 .760
#Disla, Rafael 18 ROK 182 25 6 2 0 15 19 4 36 34 .248 .408 .319 .727
*Darvill, Wes 17 ROK 148 18 1 0 0 15 7 1 13 31 .223 .295 .231 .525

Contract info for 2010

Ryan Theriot – Eligible for salary arbitration

Andres Blanco – Auto-Renewal

Positional Summary

The system at SS excites me more than it has in quite a while. When I look at the list above, I see three guys that I like a lot. Stalin Castro, Hak-Ju Lee and DJ LeMahieu all excite me, though LeMahieu will probably not project as a SS as he gets older because of his size. Castro is the one we’ve been hearing the most about, even as much as the possibility that he could be on the big league roster in 2010. I wouldn’t go that far yet, despite the fact that he’s playing great in the Arizona Fall League, but the fact remains that Ryan Theriot is on notice. I don’t think Theriot has done anything wrong, but if Castro is ready and can be a better player, he needs to get a shot. Theriot has value to this team, especially if he were to move to 2B. For info purposes, here are our AFL player’s stats.

Pos Age G PA ▾ R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Castro, Starlin SS 19 16 60 12 24 2 1 1 8 4 2 3 6 .429 .467 .554 1.020
Vitters, Josh 3B 19 12 52 4 18 3 1 0 3 0 2 2 7 .360 .385 .460 .845
Castillo, Welington C 22 4 16 1 5 0 0 1 2 0 0 2 5 .357 .438 .571 1.009
Brenly, Michael DH 22 2 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 1.000 1.250
Mesa Solar Sox Avg 21.0 .283 .349 .432 .781
win-AFL Lg Averages 22.1 .284 .362 .444 .806

Vitters and Castro are the hitters who are getting the most time and are making the most of it. I’d like to see Castro draw more walks, which would make him a viable leadoff man that would be able to take advantage of his speed at the top of the order. Arizona Phil ranks Castro at # 3 in his recent prospect top 15 list, saying:

Castro has been everything the Cubs hoped Ronny Cedeno would be, but never was. I can’t recall any Cubs minor leaguer who has developed faster than Starlin Castro. Signed by the Cubs as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Castro made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2007, where he hit .299 with 13 SB in 60 games. Then in 2008, Castro came to the U. S. and was a part-time SS-2B-3B at Fitch Park (AZL Cubs), where he hit 311/364/464 and played good defense at all three INF positions. While he showed some promise both in the DSL in 2007 and in the AZL in 2008, Castro really responded to coaching in the AZ Instructional League post-2008 (where he was easily the most-improved player from beginning to end) and at Minor League Camp this past March, earning him a “challenge” promotion all the way up to Advanced-“A” Daytona (Florida State League) on Opening Day 2009 (skipping both Boise and Peoria). And he accepted the challenge, too, hitting 302/340/391 in 96 games for the D-Cubs while earning a spot in the FSL All-Star Game and a mid-season promotion to AA Tennessee. Castro continued to hit at Tennessee (288/347/396), and helped lead the Smokies into the Southern League playoffs. Then he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League post-2009, where he presently leads the AFL in hitting while playing stellar defense at SS. Castro is still somewhat impatient at the plate (only 66/110 BB/K in 977 career PA), and seems to prefer to hit “first-ball fastball.” Although he also played 2B and 3B prior to the 2009 season, Castro played only SS at Daytona and Tennessee in 2009. He has plus-range and a strong arm, and while he made 39 errors (combined) at Daytona & Tennessee this past season, he has made only one error so far in the AFL while making several spectacular stops & throws, and he played in the AFL “Rising Stars” this past weekend. He has put on about 15 pounds over the past couple of years (and he still has room to grow) and could develop HR power as he matures (he’s still only 19). Castro is his own player, but he reminds me a little bit of a young Edgar Renteria – (Source)

At the beginning of the season, Deric McKamey said in the 2009 Minor League Baseball Analyst:

Athletic/light-framed infielder with above average speed and the contact ability to hit for BA. Lacks the strength/bat speed hit for power and will need to draw more walks. Possesses plus range, soft hands, and instincts, which off-sets average arm strength.

John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com had this to say in his 2009 prospect handbook:

A Dominican signed in 2006, Castro performed well in his North American debut in the Arizona Rookie League. He has power potential and has shown the ability to hit for average so far, though his strike zone judgment could use some work. His speed is average, but he is a good athlete, has a strong throwing arm, and can play second base, third base and shortstop without hurting you. The Cubs expect to pair him with AZL teammate Junior Lake in the middle infield at higher levels, though it remains to be seen who will play what position. Castro is a long way away, but he could end up being very good if he can develop the skills to go with his tools.

The fact that last year, coming into the season, Sickels mentioned that he was “a long way away” and his young age has me worried that we’ll rush this kid through the system and he won’t be able to make the proper adjustments to smart pitchers who know how to pitch to guys weaknesses.

As for Hak-Ju Lee and DJ LeMahieu, both are young but give me a lot of excitement and hope that in the next few years we’ll see a nice crop of middle infield talent coming through this system.


2010 Free Agents at SS
Scott Boras clients in Bold

Orlando Cabrera (35) – Type A, can’t be offered arbitration
Juan Castro (38)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Adam Everett (33)
Chris Gomez (39)
Alex Gonzalez (32)
Nick Green (31)
Khalil Greene (30)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
John McDonald (35)
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Marco Scutaro (34) – Type A
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Wilson Valdez (32)
Omar Vizquel (43)
Jack Wilson (32) – $8.4MM club option with a $600K buyout

  • Mastrick

    I saw an article in the Trib that suggested that the Cubs might build a package centered around Vitters and Castro going to Detroit. I thought “you’ve got to be kidding.” While Granderson is a good ballplayer he hasn’t done well against lefties and we’re going to trade two top prospects? No way, Hendry wouldn’t even do that in a drunken stupor. Or would he…

  • The guys you mentioned are pretty good, but let’s not forget about Blanco either. He’s going to at worst be a solid utility guy this season, maybe more.

    Looks like Castro’s gotta be on the 40-man anyway this offseason, so no wonder they are looking at him as a possible big league guy. Two warnings about Castro: small sample size in the AFL and Felix Pie. Make him play his way into the majors this April and May.

    Again, free agents are thin, especially if you’re looking for a SS with a bat. Scutaro is the only one who really fits that bill, and that was his first year as a starter. No need to touch anyone from this list.

    And Mastrick, Granderson would solve a lot of problems with his left-handed swing and decent defense. Wrigley’s smaller park might help him in both areas. I trust that Hendry’s not dumb enough to trade Vitters and Castro for him. But maybe a Fox or a Hoffpaiur could be a substantial part of the deal. Let’s just not take on Magglio or another awful contract just to get Granderson, unless they take the baggage known as the Game Board.

  • Looks like Castro’s gotta be on the 40-man anyway this offseason, so no wonder they are looking at him as a possible big league guy.

    Moondog, where do you get that impression from? Castro doesn’t need to be added to the 40 man roster for quite some time.

  • From MoonDog

    I was a year off, but I think the rules are four years after signing and three years after you’re drafted, you have to be on the 40-man or you’re exposed for the Rule V draft. So I think I’m a year early on Castro, now that I think about it. If he’s as good as advertised, he’s on the short list to being added.

    Is there a list of potential Rule V guys currently in our minors? Might be another topic for you one day, to see who we should/shouldn’t add to the 40-man