Castro's start reminiscent of Ryno's

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
6:50
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Starlin CastroDebby Wong/US PresswireStarlin Castro needs one more hit to reach an NL-high 200 for the season.
With one more triple, Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will become the first Cub since Ryne Sandberg to have at least 10 home runs, 10 triples, 30 doubles and 20 stolen bases.

Sandberg's 1984 MVP season featured 19 home runs, 19 triples, 36 doubles and 32 steals.

That begs the question, is Castro, who recorded his 200th hit this season in his first at-bat Friday, at age 21 the most impactful all-around player the Cubs have had since Sandberg's peak years in the 1980s and early ‘90s?

For now, we'll ignore some of Sammy Sosa's seasons, due to the fact nobody can really clarify whether he was using PEDs. But there's no question Castro has a way to go before his defense can be compared to Sandberg, who won nine Gold Gloves.

Castro's emergence as the most prolific hitter in the NL is startling to a lot of people. But others think Castro is the next Cubs Hall of Famer. Castro is the youngest Cubs player ever to reach 200 hits and the 16th player since 1900 to get 200 or more hits at age 21 or younger.

"Even if he doesn't develop more plate discipline, he may be the best bad-ball hitter since Vladimir Guerrero broke into the majors (in the mid ‘90s),” Arizona talent evaluator Bill Bryck said. "His defense is a lot better this year. He just needs to get a better rhythm on balls hit right at him.”

Many of Castro's 28 errors have come on routine plays in which he made a bad throw. Conversely, he probably made more outstanding plays at shortstop than anyone in the NL.

He's already passed Glenn Beckert for the most hits in two consecutive seasons to begin a Cubs career, which is impressive considering he missed the first month of 2010 playing in the minors.

As far as comparing Castro's offense to Sandberg's, one only has to look at the Hall of Famer's first two seasons when he hit home runs in single digits. Sandberg's career took a turn at age 24 when he took the advice of manager Jim Frey and began to pull the ball in certain counts in certain situations.

"He's far from Ryno right now," said Cubs manager Mike Quade. "And that's certainly because Ryno has the body of work. But just the fact that he is in the conversation is pretty impressive at age 21. Let's hope he becomes that and more."

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167