While we all wait to find out who the next New York Yankees' manager will be and what Masahiro Tanaka will do about his buyout clause, there is time to talk about the 2018 on-the-field Yankees. Today's subject is about the positives and negatives of keeping Starlin Castro as the starting Yankees' second baseman.
There is a lot to like about Castro as a Yankee. He is still a young player at 28 (by the time the season starts) and is still relatively cheap with a tab of just under $11 million in 2018. Despite his youth, he is heading into his ninth season in the Majors and is a positive presence for the younger members of the team. He has been right there in the middle of the dugout fun seen during the Yankees' run this past season.
Castro can also be an above average offensive second baseman. Though three of his past five seasons have shown a below average OPS+ / wRC+, his slugging percentage has rung higher the past two seasons than at any point before. His offensive runs above average were the highest of his career in 2017.
Castro is pretty much a known entity. He will score a relatively high batting average, show some pop and have impressive hot streaks. Those are positives.
On the negative side, Starlin Castro has not scored very well as a defensive second baseman. Both his two seasons at the position have shown negative four plus runs below average. With two similar seasons at the position, we should not expect his defense to improve going forward. He is also nowhere close to being able to turn the double-play ball like Robinson Cano.
There are also some negatives on the offensive side. Castro is an undeterred free swinger with a lifetime walk rate of only 4.9%. His walk percentage in 2017 matched his career average after two straight sub-4% seasons. For players with 400 or more plate appearances, Castro ranked 115th in pitches per plate appearance.
To be fair, Jose Altuve is an all-world player and ranks in the bottom five players in pitches per plate appearance. But he just won a World Series and hits over .340 every year! But Castro is not Altuve.
The other negatives are that Starlin Castro tends to dry up in late and close games (.637 career OPS) and tie games (.662 career OPS). He was abysmal in those two categories in 2017 with OPS scores of .519 and .429 in those categories respectively. While you cannot point exclusively at Castro for the Yankees' terrible record in one-run games, he did not help.
To give some perspective on those two categories, the league average in 2017 was .698 and .761 respectively. The observation is that in tight spots, pitchers know they can throw sliders in the dirt and dispose of Castro quite easily.
Starlin Castro has also not performed well in his post season experiences. He has played in 22 post season games and has a .524 OPS for those 22 games with only one homer and three RBIs.
Those negatives seem to outweigh the positives and it is not that the Yankees lack options. Tyler Wade did not exactly impress with his limited Yankee exposure in 2017 (understatement). But perhaps with a more solid status on the team, he could share a platoon with Ronald Torreyes and be as effective as a full-time Castro. Or we can dream about Gleyber Torres.
The Reds, Mets and Padres all have a strong need for second base help and several teams could use a shortstop (lest we forget Castro's original position). Castro could be an improvement for any of those teams and perhaps could be flipped for a reliable (and cheap) starter.