A Closer Look at Starlin Castro

The Yankees continued their youth movement on Tuesday by acquiring 25-year-old Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees desperately needed to fill a hole at second base after continually running Stephen Drew out there last season. Despite Castro’s inconsistent play over the past few seasons, he is still a substantial upgrade for the Yankees at second base. How much of an upgrade Castro will be is unknown, but he could be a much more significant upgrade than some may believe.

According to the Baseball-Reference Player Index, Starlin Castro is one of only 52 players since 1901 to record at least 900 career hits through their age-25 season. Castro ranks 25th on this list with 991 hits – the most by a player on the list since Miguel Cabrera (1,022) in 2008. Castro is not Miguel Cabrera – we all know that – but he clearly deserves credit for his accomplishment.

Changing course a little, I want to compare Xander Bogaerts and Starlin Castro’s plate discipline numbers from this past season. Here are their numbers side-by-side via FanGraphs:

[table caption=”Plate Discipline Comparison: Starlin Castro and Xander Bogaerts”]
Name,Team,O-Swing%,Z-Swing%,Swing%,O-Contact%,Z-Contact%,Contact%,Zone%,F-Strike%,SwStr%
Xander Bogaerts,Red Sox,36.1%,64.0%,49.5%,70.5%,88.8%,81.8%,47.9%,62.4%,9.1%
Starlin Castro,Cubs,36.2%,65.9%,49.7%,70.8%,89.9%,82.4%,45.6%,56.9%,8.6%
[/table]

I am not going to go into grave detail, breaking down each number, but as you can see their numbers are very similar. Bogaerts and Castro swing at pitches outside of the strike-zone (O-Swing%) at similar rates, make contact (Contact %) at similar rates, and swing-and-miss (SwStr%) at pitches at similar rates. Bogaerts’s BB% (4.9 percent) and K% (15.4 percent) in 2015 are also quite similar to Castro’s, 3.6 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. The resemblance in numbers speak for themselves.

Moreover, Starlin Castro’s similarity scores on his Baseball-Reference page indicate his potential. According to Baseball-Reference, the ten most similar batters through age-25 seasons include three Hall of Famers and the likes of Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. I am not deeming Castro destined for the Hall, but it is evident that Castro’s career accomplishments through his age-25 season are nothing to sneeze at. In fact, a case could be made that Castro’s inconsistency has caused him to be underrated.

Although the Cubs appeared to have wanted to get rid of Castro’s contract, it might be a lot friendlier than one may think. Sites like FanGraphs have estimated that a win is worth approximately $8 million dollars in the current market. Castro has four years and $38 million remaining on his contract, which averages out to $9.5 million per year. That means that Castro would essentially need to add a little over a win a season to be “worth” his contract. Castro has averaged about 1.8 fWAR per season over his six-year career. If Castro does not improve at all, he will still be worth his contract. If he does improve – which is possible since he is only 25 – his contract could become a bargain.

Time will tell what type of player Castro is in New York. But it is clear that his numbers might be better than some believe – despite his inconsistency. Castro certainly filled a need for the Yankees and immediately improved their infield. Now we have to wait and see how much he actually improved their team. It might be more than you think.

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