According to David Lemmon of Newsday, the Cubs may be planning on moving Starlin Castro to third base for the 2015 season. While we have heard rumors of Castro moving to second base to accommodate Javier Baez at short, and we have heard of moving Baez to third to accommodate Castro, a potential position change to third base for Starlin has not been previously discussed.
This move actually makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. First, the newest top prospect in the organization, shortstop Addison Russell, is seen as a pure shortstop who has no concerns of having to move off the position. Meanwhile, Javier Baez continues to take reps at second base at Triple-A Iowa in anticipation of a coming position change. With Castro’s emerging power and thickening frame, third base is a position where he could excel both offensively and defensively.
Castro has markedly improved his power this season, moving his ISO from .102 last year to .164 through 402 plate appearances this season. This would be the highest ISO of Castro’s career with his previous best of .147 coming in 2012, a season that saw him hit 14 home runs. Castro should blow by that home run total, with 11 so far at the All Star Break in addition to a walk rate of 6.2 percent which would also represent a career high.
While Castro does not yet have the offensive profile of an elite third baseman, he is trending in that direction and should eventually be able to provide the Cubs with above average offense and defense from third base.
Meanwhile, Javier Baez profiles as an elite offensive talent at second base from the moment he steps foot on the field, while Addison Russell is seen as a near slam dunk all-around prospect at shortstop. Based on arm strength and offensive profiles, it may make more sense to have Castro move to second while Baez moves to third, although the Cubs apparently see it the other way around.
In the midst of the discussion of the Cubs’ collection of shortstops though, a rather large name has slipped through the cracks and that would be current Iowa third baseman and swoon-inducing super prospect Kris Bryant. Bryant has been ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in mid-season updates by Minor League Ball and by FanGraphs, No. 2 overall by Baseball America and was ranked No. 3 overall by Baseball Prospectus.
While the 6-foot-5, 215 pound Bryant was originally thought of as a future outfielder by talent evaporators, he has improved his third base defense and would like to stay at the position if he can. With that said, his strong arm and body type seem to profile better in right field where he still has the potential to be a well-above average defender. With the glut of quality infielders the Cubs have in the system, a move to the outfield seems inevitable for Bryant.
However it shakes out, the Cubs should enter the 2015 season with the enviable issue of having three shortstops to fit into the infield. There is also the distinct possibility that one of Baez or Castro is traded during the offseason, although the asking price may be too much for an interested party to step up to the table. While Baez and Russell are far from assured of starting the 2015 season on the 25-man-roster, at some point next year the Cubs lineup will feature an infield with special ability on defense, but even more frightening potential on offense.