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Entries in Starlin Castro (6)


Top 16 Fantasy Baseball Shortstops

Below are my pre-season top 16 shortstop rankings: 

  1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL
  2. Jose Reyes, TOR
  3. Hanley Ramirez, LAD
  4. Starlin Castro, CHC
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE
  6. Ben Zobrist, TB*
  7. Elvis Andrus, TEX
  8. Everth Cabrera, SD
  9. Ian Desmond, WSH
  10. Jimmy Rollins, PHI
  11. Alexei Ramirez, CHW
  12. Josh Rutledge, COL
  13. J.J. Hardy, BAL
  14. Danny Espinosa, WSH
  15. Jed Lowrie, OAK
  16. Alcides Escobar, KC

Honorable mention: Jean Segura, Yunel Escobar, Jhonny Peralta

Additional Information:

  1. With an average draft position of 6.7 in ESPN leagues last year, Tulowitzki was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments, playing in only 47 games due to elbow and groin injuries. The 30 home runs and .300+ batting average are still there, but 20+ stolen bases are no longer realistic. The biggest question about Tulowitzki is durability, only averaging 134 games the past five seasons prior to 2012. 
  2. 2012 marked the first time in three seasons Reyes was able to play a full year, playing in 160 games. His power upside is no longer in the 20s, but, instead, is now in the mid-teens. His stolen bases are no longer in the 60s, but in the 40s. He’ll bat leadoff for one of the best offenses in the game so expecting 115+ runs isn’t crazy.
  3. Ramirez provides 20/20 upside at a premium position and just came off a season where he played the second most games in his career. However, the .300+ batting average and 50+ stolen bases he used to provide are long gone; if he continues to strike out 20% of the time, be happy with a .260 batting average.
  4. Castro’s home run and stolen base totals have increased year over year since he’s been in majors. The biggest question is will his home run and stolen base totals continue to increase? If he can improve his stolen base success rate, he may give fantasy owners the same fantasy value of Jose Reyes.
  5. Even though Asdrubal Cabrera had a down year he was playing through various nagging injuries during the second half of the year. With Terry Francona joining the Indians in the off-season I wouldn’t be surprised if Cabrera is hitting in the middle of a surprising revamped offense and could quietly provide 20 home runs with 90+ RBI with a .270 batting average.
  6. Zobrist’s greatest value is his versatility, qualifying at shortstop, second base and outfield. Last season, not only did his stolen bases drop dramatically, but his stolen base success rate was only 61%; the days of 20 stolen bases are gone.
  7. Andrus’ batting average, OBP and SLG have increased year over year the past three years. With the loss of Josh Hamilton and his power production, the Rangers may be inclined to run more. I still believe in his 40+ stolen base potential.
  8. Even though Everth Cabrera only received 398 ABs in the majors, Cabrera finished third in the league with 44 stolen bases. He struck out nearly 25% of the time so his .246 batting average could be hard to repeat. If he plays a full season he has the opportunity to win you a category; he’s on a team that had the most stolen base attempts in the league last year.
  9. Desmond has 20/20 potential which is great, but he could be a batting average risk. Before last year his career batting average was .262, 30 points lower than the .292 average he put up last year. I don't trust guys who strikeout more than 20% of the time to maintain an abnormally high batting averages. He’ll continue to strikeout a lot so expect a .265 average with 14-18 home runs and 20 stolen bases. 
  10. I thought the 2012 season would be the start of Rollins’ decline, but I was proved wrong. His power numbers were aided a five year high in his HR/FB rate (15.6%). His strikeout percentage increased five percentage points compared to the last six seasons. The steals may taper off, but I don’t foresee a massive drop-off. 
  11. In 2012 Ramirez had a career high in stolen bases and a career low in home runs. The power outage could be due to an extremely low in HR/FB rate (6.6%). He’s an extremely reliable fantasy player who can easily provide 15/15 production. If he can increase the walk totals to his pre-2011 levels, he could steal 25+ stolen bases.
  12. Rutledge leaped from Double-A to the major leagues last year, hitting .274/.306/.469 with 8 home runs and 7 stolen bases. There are two reasons why I like him: A) he plays in Coors, which added 20 points to his batting average. B) his swing, which is short and simple, will allow him to make consistent contact at home and on the road. He’ll provide small contributions with the power but he’ll provide a nice average with 15+ stolen bases.
  13. In 2011 Hardy saw a career high in his HR/FB rate, which, not surprisingly, lead to a career high in home runs. Last year Hardy came back down to earth, hitting only 22 home runs with a .238 batting average. The 2012 season is more representational of Hardy’s fantasy value than 2011. Prepare for a .240 batting average and be delighted if he can hit .265.
  14. Espinosa loves to swing the bat and has a poor approach. Therefore it’s no surprise he strikes out a lot; last year was he had the highest strikeout percentage in his career (28.7%). His batting average could become a bigger liability in 2013, limiting his fantasy upside. However, he provides legit 20/20 upside and that’s hard to find. Also, he tore his left rotator cuff at the beginning of September and has decided to play with the injury instead of getting surgery.
  15. Lowrie has never played in more than 100 games. Last year, he missed two months of the season because of a freak injury suffered at a collision at second base. If he can play a full year, and that’s a big if, he could hit 20+ home runs.
  16. Entering the 2012 season Escobar was seen as a glove only shortstop, but he turned in one of the best fantasy seasons for shortstops. His primary asset is his stolen bases. His ability to steal bases is dependent on him getting on base. His .293 batting average could be a result of a high BABIP, which could lead to a regression to his batting average, which could lower his OBP. If his OBP decreases, his stolen base upside will be limited. 

Overall Draft Strategy

Other than Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro and Ben Zobrist there are huge question marks surrounding every player. Can Tulowitzki, Reyes and Lowrie get 580+ plate appearances? Can Hardy, Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera bounce back? You may be wondering why Derek Jeter is not on the list despite being the 3rd best fantasy shortstop last year. I’m concerned about his age and how good he'll be after recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered in Game 1 of the ALCS. 


Cubs Commit to Starlin Castro

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly on the verge of signing Starlin Castro to a seven-year, $60 million contract extension that includes an option for the 2020 season that could push the total value of the pact to $76 million.

Still just 22 years old, Castro has drawn the ire of manager Dale Sveum for occasionally spacing out on the field. Others wonder whether he can stick at shortstop long term, though he has seemingly made some progress using his strong-but-errant arm). But despite those concerns, Castro's performance at such a young age stands out. Among shortstops getting at least 1,500 plate appearances from age 20-22, Castro's 104 OPS+ bests the likes of Alan Trammell (97), Robin Yount (92) and Edgar Renteria (84). In fact, the only shortstops meeting those criteria who fared better are all-time greats Rogers Hornsby (153; he shifted to 2B), Alex Rodriguez (139), and Arky Vaughan (137).

Just what type of hitter Castro will become in his prime years remains an open question. There are two competing trends manifesting at the plate for the Cubs shortstop -- one pushing him toward potential stardom, the other constraining his progress. Castro is gradually tapping into his power potential, putting more pitches in the air and hitting to the pull side more often. But he's also giving away some ABs with a Soriano-sized strike zone.

Castro didn't show much pop as a 20-year-old rookie back in 2010, hitting three home runs and posting a .108 Isolated Power (ISO) in 506 plate appearances. He didn't really hit many pitches skyward, as you can see by comparing his fly ball rate by pitch location to the league average: 

League Avg. Fly Ball Rate by Pitch Location


Castro's Fly Ball Rate, 2010


Castro hit a fly ball a little less than 27% of the time he put a pitch in play, well under the 36-37% MLB average. He began to trade some grounders for fly balls in 2011, raising his fly ball rate to 31%. Castro's homer total climbed to ten, and his ISO increased to .125 in 715 PA:

Castro's Fly Ball Rate, 2011


This year, Castro's fly ball rate sits at 34%. He has gone deep 12 times already in 508 PA, and his .148 ISO ranks seventh among qualified shortstops. Castro's lofting most anything thrown upstairs:

Castro's Fly Ball Rate, 2012


He's also pulling the ball a little more, with his percentage of pitches put in play to left field rising from 41.1% in 2010 to 43.3% this season. But while the 6-foot, 190 pounder is hitting more forcefully, he's also turning into a hacker.

Castro was a little more jumpy than most hitters in both 2010 and 2011, chasing about 32% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (28% MLB average). Comparing his swing rate by pitch location to the league average, he lunged at a bunch of low pitches as a rookie (contributing to that low fly ball rate) and swung at lots of inside pitches in 2011:

League Avg. Swing Rate by Pitch Location


Castro's Swing Rate, 2010


Castro's Swing Rate, 2011


In his third MLB season, Castro has taken that tendency to swing on inside stuff to the extreme:

Castro's Swing Rate, 2012


Going after so many inside offerings, Castro's overall chase rate has spiked to slightly over 37%. That's eighth-highest among qualified hitters, topping teammate and noted hacker Alfonso Soriano. And, as we noted last week, many of Castro's chases are on truly awful pitches.

As one might expect from a player thrust into the majors at 20 with scarce experience in the upper levels of the minors, Starlin Castro remains raw. But for all the consternation, Castro has managed to perform at an above-average level -- a level some future multi-time All-Stars and Hall of Famers didn't reach -- at an age when most players are sharpening their skills in high Class-A ball. He's exciting. He's exasperating. And his development may be the biggest factor in how quickly the Cubs climb from the depths of the NL Central standings.


Starlin Castro Swinging Away

As Fangraphs' Wendy Thrum notes, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has been thrown out on the bases more often this season (five caught stealings) than he has drawn ball four (four walks). Castro likely won't become the first full-time player to pull off the '"feat" since Ozzie Guillen in the late eighties and early nineties if he shows even slightly better plate discipline from here on out. But Thrum's tidbit highlights just how much of a free swinger the 22-year-old has been in 2012.

During his first two years in the majors, Castro swung at between 32 and 33 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (excluding those lobbed during intentional walks). In 2012, the Cubs' potential franchise player has gone after 43 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone. That makes him the game's biggest hacker this side of Josh Hamilton.

Most of those extra swings have come on pitches way in on his hands. Check out his swing rate by pitch location in 2010-11, and then this season:

Castro's swing rate by pitch location, 2010-11

Castro's swing rate by pitch location, 2012

Breaking it down by pitch type, Castro has chased considerably more fastballs/sinkers and changeups. And he's the undisputed slider chase king:

Pitch2010-11 Chase Rate2012 Chase Rate
Fastball/Sinker 28.3 36.8
Curveball 31.6 25.7
Slider 39.4 62.9
Changeup 37 48.6


With Castro lunging at so many would-be balls, his unintentional walk rate has dipped from 4.5 percent in 2010-11 to just 1.9 percent in 2012. The lack of free passes hasn't hurt so far, as his 108 OPS+ this season is a slight improvement over his 107 mark the previous two years.

Castro strikes out at a moderate clip (a career 14 percent K rate) and he seems to have established himself as a batter who gets more hits on balls in play than most (his career BABIP is .346). Those traits have allowed Castro to post the eighth-best OPS+ ever among shortstops getting at least 1,000 plate appearances through age 22, according to Baseball-Reference. There's plenty to like already, and years for him to add polish before he reaches his presumptive peak. He could be a Derek Jeter doppelganger. But you have to wonder: Can Castro become a truly elite player while taking this many cuts?