LOS ANGELES – Starlin Castro can be Exhibit A in the case for and against bringing up Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa.
Castro skipped that level, jumping from Double-A Tennessee to The Show on May 7, 2010, homering in his first at-bat against the Cincinnati Reds and putting up six RBI in his debut.
At age 20, the Cubs shortstop hit .300 and finished fifth in the National League’s Rookie of the Year voting. That set the stage for All-Star selections in 2011 and 2012. Castro would like to see Baez up here, and that’s pretty much the majority opinion inside the clubhouse.
“Yeah, maybe this year,” Castro said Sunday at Dodger Stadium. “I don’t know when, but they have to be here soon.”
But no one could argue it was a completely smooth transition for Castro, who got booed after committing three errors during his Wrigley Field debut.
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It’s not like Castro was a finished product. The mental lapses and defensive breakdowns will happen after only 57 games above the A-ball level. Manager Dale Sveum got fired after Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo had step-back seasons last year.
Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and Albert Almora will need years to figure out who they are as players. But Castro’s always had the internal drive and mental toughness, making the adjustments and generating more than 800 hits before his 25th birthday.
“They have the talent, I think they can do the same,” Castro said. “Come here and keep grinding, keep doing a good job. It’s going to be good in here.”
Castro’s big thing is playing all 162. After starting the season’s first 109 games at shortstop, manager Rick Renteria used Castro as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Castro – who said he’s not tired and doesn’t need a breather – came through with a two-out, two-run RBI single up the middle in a 7-3 victory over the Dodgers.
Baez has already started the transition away from shortstop toward second base, generating 21 homers, 78 RBI and an .811 OPS through 103 games at Iowa. Whenever he comes up, Baseball America’s No. 7 overall prospect will have a target on his back.
“It’s tough when you come up like that,” Castro said. “You’re working hard, and you play hard, but you still don’t know if they will send you down.
“Thank God I never went back to the minor leagues. Those guys we got in the minor leagues, I think when they come in here, they got the ability and the talent to be (here the rest of their) careers.”