Monday, February 1, 2016
THE EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
I've been a big proponent of the Yankees building from within. As you all know, it drives me crazy when GM Brian Cashman brings in over-priced, 30-something players from outside the organization simply in attempt to “catch lightning in a bottle” – hoping the players will rejuvenate their careers by merely putting on the pinstripes. More often than not, the results are embarrassing.
The biggest off-season move by the Yankees GM this winter has been the acquisition of talent from outside the system to take over second base; in spite of the fact that the team has a top-10 prospect (Rob Refsnyder) who played so well after a September call-up that he started at second in the wild card game.
As I mentioned, Cashman’s move would normally send me on a six-month rant, only this time the player he brought in – Starlin Castro (formerly of the Cubs) - is young (25), and has a fairly high ceiling. So, the irritation to me was actually minor and brief. In fact, I became a Castro fan within days of the acquisition after I read the article he wrote in Derek Jeter’s “The Player’s Tribune”. In it, Castro sincerely thanked the fans he left in Chicago, and with equal sincerity, explained his excitement about the opportunity to play for the Yankees. That article displayed a maturity beyond his years, and made me an admirer.
So, what can we expect from our high-ceiling-ed, shortstop-turned-second baseman? Well, Mr. Cashman is banking on the team getting the Starlin Castro who finished 2015 at second base in Chicago, and hit .353 in his 47 games from August 11th to the end of the season (the games he played primarily at the “new” position), and not the one who hit .236 as a shortstop. Overall, Castro’s average for last year was .265 with 11 HR and 69 RBI (something we Yankee fans would have gladly accepted from our 2nd-sacker). In reality, we can probably expect something around a .270 - .275 average; not too bad considering what we’ve been subjected to over the last two years.
Here’s a word of warning: our new second baseman is young, and if nothing else, young players are wildly inconsistent. Don’t expect a big bang right out of the gate. As a die-hard Yankee fan, I know I’d love to see an instant All-Star emerge on Opening Day, but realistically I’m just going to be happy seeing someone other than Stephen Drew trot out to the position. I know it will instantly be an improvement.
We only need to look at our young shortstop to envision what we might witness at second. Remember the start Didi Gregorius had to his Yankees career? At the end of May, he was hitting .221 and had committed six errors. Our successor to the beloved Derek Jeter was failing miserably. Boo birds were beginning to find their way out from the rafters of Yankee Stadium, but Didi kept working. Over the final four months of the season, Gregorius hit .282 and committed just seven more errors at short. It can be argued that from August on, the young shortstop was the team’s best player – both at the plate and in the field. While the rest of Cashman’s aging vets were fading into the late summer sun, Didi was rising to the occasion. That’s the beauty of youth, it doesn’t wilt when the team is fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch.
If I’m Starlin Castro, I not only make Didi Gregorius a good friend because he’ll be my double-play partner, I make him my mentor because he came in under with tremendous pressure to succeed, and did. Castro’s task is actually much simpler. He doesn’t have the giant shoes that Gregorius had to fill. Hell, all Starlin needs to do is hit .240 (he’s actually never hit lower than .245 in 2013) and he’s bettered what we had by over 30 points. We already know he’ll have much greater range and ability in the field than his predecessor. Now, we need to see if he can handle New York, and he’d serve himself well to follow Didi Gregorius’s example.
--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
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