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June 27, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Starlin Castro Will Probably Make the Hall of Fame

by Sam Miller

Starlin Castro.

That list, if you can't or don't want to click through, has four players besides Castro on it: Alex Rodriguez, Arky Vaughan, Rogers Hornsby and a guy named Dick Bartell, who looks to have been the Edgar Renteria of his day. That's a very good list! But you and I know it can be easy to make impressive lists with narrow parameters. So let's make it simpler. Let's just make it incredibly simple: What's the list of shortstops with 1,500 plate appearances through age-22 season? (Castro has 1,542; he should get closer to 1,800 or 1,900 by the end of the season, but we're keeping it simple, and we would rather have him near the middle of our parameters than at the bottom.)
 
That list: Robin Yount; Renteria; Rodriguez; Elvis Andrus; Vaughan; Travis Jackson; Alan Trammell; Hornsby; and Garry Templeton. Nine players, five Hall of Famers (if you'll indulge me and count Rodriguez), plus an active Andrus. And that's why I wrote the (perhaps sensational) headline that I wrote.
 
But maybe that's still a manipulative list. Let's get even simpler, and simply limit it to ALL position players with 1,500 plate appearances through age-22 season. Now we have 59 players, 52 of whom are retired, 23 of whom are either in the Hall of Fame or are Ken Griffey, Jr. Knowing nothing about Starlin Castro except his age and how much he has played, we can say he is in a group from which 44 percent of players have become Hall of Famers. Which would still justify a similar, if slightly less confident, headline.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Starlin Castro

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Richard Bergstrom

Move Castro off shortstop and the list becomes less impressive.

Also, the lack of focus he has demonstrated so far make it less likely he'll be able to adapt as he ages into his mid 30s. Sure, he's doing great stuff, but like Corey Patterson, he may be just getting by on ability without actually learning and adapting to the adjustments the league makes.

Jun 27, 2012 14:46 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

While I understand your point about Castro’s focus and making adjustments, I have to quibble with the Corey Patterson comparison.

To start with the obvious: Castro is a better ballplayer at this point than Patterson:

Patterson (thru age-22 season): .243/.278/.379 (72 OPS+)
Starlin (thru his in-progress age-22 season): 304/.338/.426 (106 OPS+)

Patterson may have had great ability like Castro, but he never had these results.

Even Patterson’s perceived breakout season, which came during his age-23 season, is a bit questionable. What people forget is that, despite the 114 OPS+, he 1) only had 347 plate appearances (due to injury) and 2) had an uncharacteristically good batting average despite continued poor contact rates. My guess, and nobody knows for sure, is that had Patterson stayed healthy he would have played himself down from that 114 OPS+. Of course, Patterson never did reach that plateau again in his career, and it seems safe to say that he never will.

That brings me back to Castro. He’s already had two seasons with OPS+ over 100 and should have a third, barring a collapse. Your point about his defense and likely position change is understood, but even if you change the parameters of the Meyers query to third basemen with 400+ hits and .300+ average at age 22, you get:

Cecil Travis (three-time All-Star)
Freddie Lindstrom (Hall of Famer)
Buddy Lewis (two-time All-Star)

And that’s it.

What Castro is doing is rare and special. Even if Castro seems like a space cadet at times, comparing him to Patterson—who never made an All-Star game and, as you showcased, is thought of as a disappointment—seem overly harsh.

Jun 27, 2012 15:57 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I know what Castro is doing is rare and special. The only reason I brought up Corey was not because of a straight comparison, but because of a great insight (and one of my favorite BP Annual comments of all-time). From the 2007 BP Annual:

"Patterson is a former favorite of scouts and statheads alike, but he turned out to be one of those players who, at age 20, was about as good as he was ever going to be. The idea that the average player improves through his twenties to age 27 is mistaken, as that trend really only applies to the average major leaguer. What distinguishes a typical major leaguer from a typical minor leaguer is the ability to learn and improve. Patterson doesn`t have that talent, but his basic skills are good enough to keep him in the majors for years to come."

Castro runs that risk, because of his lack of concentration, of never getting any better than he is right now. The main reason people project big things for him is he's doing amazing things as a kid. He may have the natural talent where he will remain a regular starter until his thirties, But, if he has the same slash stats and disregard for defense now as he does when he's 27, he'll be less impressive. His lack of concentration suggests to me, at least, that there is some risk that he won't be any better than what he is now.

Jun 27, 2012 17:20 PM
rating: 5
 
SGreenwell

He'll be less impressive if he doesn't improve from here, but since he plays shortstop, he'll still be very valuable. Sure, I think any Hall of Fame talk is moot if he moves off short, but what I think Sam was trying to point out is just how important getting an early start is to Hall of Fame chances.

It's rare for a player as young as Castro to be in the majors, never mind holding his own with a .300+ average. He's not a real sexy player from a statistics standpoint, and it sounds like he's infuriating to watch from a fan standpoint at times, but he's still incredibly valuable. He's on pace for about a 4 WARP this year, which would give him about 9 WARP for his first three years. Assuming he plays until 35 and doesn't improve or regress, that alone gives him a WARP of about 45. That puts him within spitting distance of guys like Trammell (53.6) and Larkin (60.9).

Jun 27, 2012 20:55 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I definitely think Castro will be valuable even if he maintains his current level. Just, as I said, he wouldn't be a Hall of Famer and I think the "spitting distance of guys like Trammell" helps to indicate that. But if he moves off SS and doesn't improve with the bat or his defense, we're basically talking about a .300/.340/.450 player..

The most comparable player to Castro on Baseball-Reference through their age 22 season is the aforementioned Garry Templeton. Templeton hit over .300 in 3 of his first full seasons by the age of 24 and his best slash stat season was in 1979 where he had a OPS+ of 112 and slash stats of .314/.331/458. After his age 24 season, Templeton broke a .265 AVG and a .700 OPS just twice for the rest of his career as the OBP and SLG cratered with the AVG. Granted a different offensive era and all that jazz, but that's what I mean when I wonder if Castro has the focus/fortitude/whatever to be able to adapt and grow.

Yeah I know Castro's 22, but the way he doesn't pay attention on every pitch and commits, not rookie mistakes, but actual mental mistakes from a lack of focus make me wonder if he's already bored with baseball and just coasting on talent. Every year it seems he gets benched for a major gaffe and it doesn't seem like he's learned from it much.

Time will tell. Castro should be valuable for 5 years, but if he moves off shortstop, he needs to improve _somewhere_ to be considered a star.

Jun 27, 2012 22:28 PM
rating: 2
 
krissbeth

Yep. Gary Templeton is the name that leaps off that list as the best comparison.

Jun 29, 2012 08:49 AM
rating: 0
 
sedagive

The Patterson comparison seems "same team lazy" and overly pessimistic.

Jun 28, 2012 09:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Did you read a word of the 500+ words that I wrote?

Jun 28, 2012 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Edwincnelson

I've watched most Cubs games since Castro came up and he's just not comfortable at that position and isn't ever going to be. The SS is supposed to be the quarterback of the defense and he's not outgoing enough to be a leader, or that's how it appears. That said, I just saw Javier Baez when Peoria came to Kane County and he's the textbook definition of SS and obviously can play. The question is can Castro play 2B, and if he's at 3B instead will those numbers look as good or not?

Jun 28, 2012 09:47 AM
rating: -1
 
Mike Schieve

In a couple years Vitters might be poised to take over at 3B

Jun 29, 2012 06:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

They were saying that about Vitters a couple of years ago. His 2010 and 2011 were offensive zeroes.

Jun 30, 2012 00:12 AM
rating: 0
 
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