What We Have
Starlin Castro -I think it’s clear we have a star in the making, right? I’ll be the first to apologize for saying the Cubs should not have rushed him. I was wrong. Castro is the clear cut starter at SS for this team for next year and years to come. His fielding improved once he got his confidence that he belonged in the league and he made a strong case for rookie of the year, though I think his late season slump may have taken that award away from him.
The only things I need to see from him going forward in terms of improvement are better base running instincts, better plate discipline (which comes with age), and the power that will come as he matures. Once those skills develop, I could see him make a strong case for being one of the elite SS in the game. He’s that good.
What is on the Horizon
Hak-Ju Lee - It’s important not to be discouraged by the regression from Lee in 2010. He dominated Low-A Boise in 2009, his first season in pro ball coming over from Korea, but struggled in comparison to those numbers this year at Peoria. When all was said and done, two things need to be remembered. First, he still hit very well, especially considering the language barrier and his age (19). He finished the season with a line of .282 / .354 / .351 with 1 HR and 32 SB in 122 games.
Lee is a guy who, if he can continue to progress into the player the Cubs think he is, can supplant Castro at SS because of his glove. That would give us a middle infield loaded with talent and even more exciting: speed. Be patient Cub fans, but keep an eye on this kid in the next few years. He’s a good one.
Junior Lake - He’s another foreign born youngster, hailing from San Pedro, DO. He’s not a high praised prospect, but he did show some improvements in a few areas he needed to work on. In 2009 he put up a putrid strike out rate of 28.2%. To put that in perspective, that’s Adam Dunn range without the walks to go with it. He basically doubled his walk output and cut down a respectable amount of his K’s. He’s going to need to continue to work on that if he is going to have any shot at making it to the Majors. I don’t have high hopes.
Notable Names Available via Free Agency
Craig Counsell – Can’t hit a lick, but it’d be fun watching that funky stance all year.
Cesar Izturis – He makes this list because as long as Jim Hendry is the GM and Izturis is still playing, there is always the danger he’ll wind up on our team.
Derek Jeter – There is no way he leaves the Yankees and no where to really put him with Starlin locked in as the starter of the future, but it would be cool to have his bat as the leadoff man, wouldn’t it?
Jose Reyes – The Mets have a club option on him for 2011 so there is a chance he’d come back with them. I’ve heard rumblings that they would exercise his option and look to trade him.
Jimmy Rollins – He’s signed with a club option for 2011 at a very cheap $8.5 mil. He’s going back to Philly, but he makes this list because there is always the chance he goes to free agency if Philly goes in a different direction.
Joe’s Best Course of Action
I think it’s pretty clear that Starlin is the SS of the future for this team. There is the potential there for him to be a bonafide star in this game. That being said, the only real decision that needs to be made from there is who will fill in for him in the event of a day off. I don’t anticipate there being too many days off, so I don’t see the position being one that warrants addressing via free agency. At this point, there really isn’t anyone in the system with the exception of Darwin Barney that can fill that role with any competence. Barring a minor league contract signed by a veteran, Barney has that spot. I save my money go in house for the SS position.
Three Questions for Discussion
1. Starlin had some slumps and streaks where he was on fire. What do you expect from him for 2011 for the following numbers: Avg / OBP / Slug / HR / SB
2. How important is the backup SS role on this team, given Starlin will play just about every day? Is it a position that should be addressed via trade / free agency or filled from within?
3. What is your plan for the SS position as a whole moving forward?
Joe’s Roster So Far
C – Geovany Soto / Robinson Chirinos
1b – Adam Dunn / Micah Hoffpauir
2b – Blake DeWitt / Jeff Baker / Darwin Barney / Akinori Iwamura
SS – Starlin Castro