Friday, May 7, 2010
For Cubs, a revolution at shortstop
Wow. I didn't see this one coming, at all.
The Chicago Cubs have called up top prospect Starlin Castro, and the shortstop is expected to join the team in Cincinnati on Friday, the player told ESPNDeportes.com.
Castro, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, was hitting .376 at Double-A Tennessee with one home run and 20 RBIs.
It's expected that Ryan Theriot, who is hitting .341, will move to second base and play in front of Mike Fontenot, who's hitting .296.
Castro also is considered to be a strong defensive shortstop, with very good range and a strong arm.
The Cubs (13-16) were swept in three games in Pittsburgh and have fallen to fourth place in the NL Central, five games behind division leader St. Louis.
No, the Cubs aren't panicking. Not at all.
Here's what I wrote about Castro a few months ago (riffing on Bryan Smith's comparison of Castro to Garry Templeton):
For the younger among you, "the Templeton model" refers to Garry Templeton, an All-Star who once was traded straight up for Ozzie Smith (you know how that deal worked out).
Templeton was statistically similar to Castro in the minors, and returned to Double-A after a short stint there in the previous season. Four months and three outstanding (for a shortstop) slash stats later, the Cardinals jumped Templeton past Triple-A into the majors, where he soon established himself as a young star.
The Cubs aren't a joke. They should be trying to win games. At this point, Starlin Castro's probably not their best shortstop; Ryan Theriot is. But if Castro plays well in the minors and the Cubs are out of the race -- as the Cardinals were in 1976 -- then sure, call the kid up and let him get started. Right now, though? There's absolutely no reason to rush things.
Theriot's doing really well. Fontenot's not doing so well; that .296 batting average is almost completely empty. Still, Fontenot might be forgiven for wondering "Why me?" when Derrek Lee's hitting like a shortstop and Aramis Ramirez is hitting like a Double-A shortstop.
Look, the Cubs need to get younger. Aside from 27-year-old Geovany Soto, the youngest every-day Cub is Fontenot, who turns 30 next month. I don't know if Castro's better than Fontenot right now, but if not he will be soon.
I just don't understand why now, when Castro: 1) hasn't played a single Triple-A game yet; and 2) gets an early start on his arbitration clock. Does he really improve the Cubs' postseason chances so much that they can't wait just a few more weeks?