Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Now In Washington, Can Starlin Castro Have Success In 2020?

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The Washington Nationals had a need at second base, and while they could’ve turned to Carter Kieboom (who, barring another move, is penciled into the lineup at third base) or Wilmer Difo they ultimately chose to go the free agent route.  Yesterday we learned that they had signed Starlin Castro to a two year, $12 million contract coming off a year where he posted the following line:

636 At Bats
.270 Batting Average (172 Hits)
22 Home Runs
86 RBI
68 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.300 On Base Percentage
.436 Slugging Percentage
.293 Batting Average on Balls in Play

It was a career high in terms of home runs and RBI, while he also continued to produce a solid average.  He’s obviously moving to a more favorable home ballpark, as well as a potentially better lineup (even without Anthony Rendon), so you have to ask if it’s possible for him to replicate that success?

Let’s not ignore that it was a big late season power surge that helped to skew the numbers.  Through August 21 his HR/FB sat at 8.7%, which is right in line with his career mark of 9.1%.  He then proceeded to hit 7 HR in September (11 HR from August 22 through the end of the season), giving the impression that he benefited from the power surge around the game.  Instead, for most of the season he was the same player he’s always been.

Obviously the drop in power would also influence his RBI upside, as would the fact that he’s not going to be hitting in a prime spot in the lineup.  The 2019 Marlins were a poor offensive team, forcing Castro into the middle (266 AB hitting cleanup, 229 hitting fifth), but in Washington that’s not the case.

Never one to draw many walks (5.0% career walk rate), he was always going to be deficient in terms of his OBP.  He also lacks the speed to help him maintain an elevated BABIP, and his 22.1% Oppo% doesn’t help either.  While we wouldn’t expect it to be this bad, the power surge likely helped him to this type of split:

  • First Half – .245
  • Second Half – .302

Would a slightly lower average really be a surprise?  It’s not a given, but maybe in the .255-.265 range?  Without speed, power and significant RBI upside, that just further makes him a tough sell.  Castro is the type of player that is a streaming option, if needed, but there’s hardly enough upside to justify targeting him.

Source – Fangraphs

2 COMMENTS

  1. They just signed Asdrubal also. What does this mean for Carter Kieboom’s development and ETA and how does it affect his future?

    • I think Cabrera is going to be more of a reserve/utility then a starter. Maybe he opens the year so Kieboom gets a little time in the minors to manipulate service time, but I wouldn’t see it as a big stumbling block

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