By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) When it comes to Starlin Castro’s fielding percentage, the good news is that it’s improved every season. But the bad news? Well, after four years of big league ball, it’s still never been better than .967.
And for those of you scoring at home, that’s not good.
Despite Castro’s high-profile struggles at the plate in 2013, I still believe that he’s is a natural-born hitter, and hopefully he shows that again this summer in Chicago. But on the flip side, based on his proclivity for errors – both physical and mental – while out in the field, I’ve never really believed that the guy is a natural-born shortstop.
Rather, he just plays one on TV.
So far, much of the talk this spring in Mesa has been if Castro, the Cubs’ 23-year-old entrenched shortstop, and Javier Baez, the Cubs’ 21-year-old phenom shortstop, can eventually co-exist on the same roster.
On Thursday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said that the team is planning on having Baez play some games at second base or third base during spring training.
“He’s been working over there quite a bit, actually,” Renteria said. “It will be here soon, quite frankly. We want to make sure the guys get some looks at different positions.”
For Baez, such a move makes a lot of sense because it’s wise to see how he fares elsewhere on the field. But I also wonder whether Renteria’s statement about “the guys” also applies to Castro, because I think that ultimately getting a look at how well he can play other positions — certainly second base and third base — makes a lot of sense, too.
Now, clearly, the Cubs’ No. 1 goal for Castro this spring is to get him back on track offensively after his batting average plummeted from a .283 in 2012 to .245 in 2013. And until he has become comfortable again with a bat in his hands, it probably isn’t wise to tinker with his comfort level in the field.
But I don’t think that Castro’s position as the starting shortstop should be set in stone simply because he’s entering his fifth season as the team’s starting shortstop. Not with such an intriguing alternative in Baez, who to be fair also has had his defensive struggles at shortstop in the minors, although he hasn’t had as much time to develop as Castro.
On Thursday, Renteria also stressed that while Baez may be moved around during the spring, he won’t be during the regular season at Triple-A Iowa.
“He’s not moving around positions down there,” Renteria said. “That’s a fact. He’s going to be playing shortstop. It’s like anything. At any given time, if there needs to be a change, you’ll accommodate for that change. He’s going to play short.”
So far, the same goes for Castro on the Major League roster this season. But at some point somebody is obviously going to have to make a change. And for his part, Castro told the Chicago Tribune of Baez, “Some people don’t have a good relationship because they’re playing the same position. But not with me and him. That’s what I tell him. Play hard, you’ll be out there, no matter what.
“Where? I don’t know where, but you’ll be there because you have great talent and you play the right way.”
Hopefully, Castro will heed his own advice if ultimately it’s him who gets moved to another position. And hopefully the Cubs will be open to looking into all possibilities with Castro and Baez this season, because nobody would a want an uninformed decision to end up leaving the franchise’s future stopped short.