By year's end, Starlin Castro(notes) might just be a top-five shortstop. Exhibiting the batting acumen of a multi-time All-Star, he worked counts, fouled off borderline pitches and teed-off on favorable pitches en route to a 4-for-5 night in Colorado (HR, 2B, 3 RBI). Including Saturday's outburst, the 21-year-old has 12 hits over his past five games. The newly appointed lead-off man's power is still underdeveloped, but significant growth n three categories (BA, R and SB) should be expected. At this point, it's foreseeable his value will be equal to or better than reliable veterans Derek Jeter(notes) and Jimmy Rollins(notes). Once his 15-20 HR stroke arrives, he'll be a perennial early round pick.
Although their processes are different, young Castro’s and Ichiro’s results compare favorably. Castro has gone hitless 38 times since arriving in the big leagues last May. That stretch includes 137 games, only 72.3% chance of extending your streak. But again, Castro is only 21 years old. There is ample room for improvement. The similarities really hit home when you look at their contact rates and batted ball numbers. Ichiro makes slightly more contact overall (89.2% to 86.4%), but outside the strikezone their rates are identical (both 75.9%). While we shouldn’t expect Castro’s infield hit percentage to match Ichiro’s — no one’s does — observe their batted ball profiles:
Ichiro: 20.2% LD, 55.8% GB, 24.0% FB, 9.8% IFFB
Castro: 20.3% LD, 51.4% GB, 28.4% FB, 6.3% IFFB
Eerily similar. In fact, through the first twelve games of this season, Castro is on pace to break the hit record Ichiro set in 2004. His .420 early season BABiP is nearly impossible to sustain, but a 200 hit season from the Cubs shortstop is almost guaranteed.
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