By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) The Cubs still need great pitching.
But in the first round of Thursday’s MLB Draft, the team instead got a potentially great third baseman in San Diego slugger Kris Bryant.
And that could be great. But, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmeyer wrote on Friday it’s “a move that might suggest the timeline on the Cubs’ rebuilding is getting moved back again (as) the Cubs passed on the top power pitcher in the draft Thursday to use their No. 2 overall pick on Bryant, a power-hitting third baseman who answers a top everyday need but does nothing for the organization’s top need: pitching.”
And no, it certainly doesn’t. But that’s a topic for another day.
What I’m instead wondering today is what Bryant’s presence might mean for Starlin Castro’s future. Because from my view, the arrival of a stud third base prospect very much could impact the fate of the Cubs’ 23-year-old shortstop – and not just because he might stand next to him on the field.
Of late, Castro’s offensive struggles – his average had plummeted to .253 and his OBP to. 291 entering Friday – have overshadowed his defensive deficiencies. But the latter have hardly gone away. And that issue is what has prompted me to previously argue that while Castro may be a natural-born hitter (and he still is despite his slump), he’s not a natural born shortstop.
He just plays one on TV.
In just over 500 career games, Castro has already committed 90 errors. Now that he’s in his fourth year in the majors, it’s a time when one would expect him to be settling into his position. But the reality is that Castro’s defense at short instead remains unsettling.
Considering how the Cubs have a potentially great alternative option at shortstop in phenom in Javy Baez – the 9th overall pack in the 2011 MLB Draft – I suggested back in April that at some point the Cubs need to seriously consider moving Castro to another position that’s more befitting a career .960 fielding percentage.
With Bryant now in the Cubs’ pipeline, however, the hot corner – a position that has suited the .950 career fielding percentage of Aramis Ramirez – no longer appears to be an option for a potential relocation of Castro’s talents.
For his part, Castro has shown no signs of wanting to switch. And he spoke confidently in spring training about his own future when he said, “I see myself as my whole career is going to be at shortstop. And not just as a shortstop, but a good shortstop that can win a Gold Glove and hit, and everything.”
That seems like a stretch.
But for the Cubs’ sake – and the sake of the $60 million they’ve invested in him through 2020 – they had better hope he can at least become a serviceable one.
Or learn how to play second base.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.