View Full Version : Jeff Passan covers Castro - Warm and Fuzzy Phenom Style

05-11-2010, 04:34 AM
Everyone overlooked baseball’s latest phenom. All the best 16-year-olds in the Dominican Republic sign around July 2, and on that day in 2006, none of the 30 MLB teams offered Starlin Castro a contract.

He was too skinny, too frail, too scrawny. Castro stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 140 pounds after a big meal. He required a dreamer.

“He was really weak, and nobody paid attention to him,” said Jose Serra, the Chicago Cubs’ Latin American coordinator. “Over here, you’ve got to project everything. Arm, velocity, body. But I saw something. Everything he had was easy action. He was natural.”

One of Serra’s scouting friends tipped him to Castro, and Serra drove nearly two hours across the Dominican Republic to see him. He signed the shortstop on the spot for a five-figure bonus. Less than four years later, Castro is the first player born in the 1990s to appear in the major leagues, doing so with a nonpareil debut in which he started his career with a three-run home run, added a bases-clearing triple and set a record with six RBIs in his first game.

Castro is simply the latest whose arrival comes sheathed in hype. This is the Year of the Phenom. A staggering amount of top-level talent has graduated – or soon will – to the major leagues, giving 2010 a potentially all-time rookie class. And with apologies to those here already (Ike Davis, Neftali Feliz, Wade Davis, Brian Matusz, Justin Smoak) and those soon to be (Jeremy Hellickson, Pedro Alvarez, Drew Storen), the list of prodigies runs so deep there was simply no room for them. And for now, it starts with …

1. Starlin Castro and his rapid ascent. In 2007, he spent the year at the Cubs’ academy in the Dominican Republic. In 2008, he stayed at extended spring training and played 51 games in rookie ball. Last year, he jumped to High-A and spent some time at Double-A. And now, after destroying Double-A pitching a month after he turned 20, he will spend the rest of the year, and many more, at Wrigley Field.

“I thought he was going to be become a major leaguer, but not this soon,” Serra said. “He’s done more than we all expected. Just so quick.”

Castro represents so much for the Cubs. He is their re-do. Corey Patterson, up at 20, bombed out. Felix Pie, so highly regarded, did the same. The Cubs are developmentally crippled when it comes to everyday players. Though the system has churned out the inconsistent Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot, whom Castro replaced at shortstop, the bust list turns the stomach of every Cubs fan: Pie and Patterson and Hee-Seop Choi and Brian Dopirak. Lou Montanez, Ryan Harvey, David Kelton, Bobby Hill and Kevin Orie. Gary Scott, Ty Griffin, Dwight Smith and, following his Rookie of the Year campaign, Jerome Walton. Twenty years’ worth.

Between Tyler Colvin (slugging .608 in part-time duty) and minor leaguers Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters and Hak-Ju Lee, the Cubs are replenished with position players. It begins and ends, however, with Castro, on whom all the pressure falls...

...That Starlin Castro showed with two flicks of the wrist in his first three at-bats. He was immediately a folk hero in Chicago, the nouveau Tuffy Rhodes, though hopefully with a much longer, more fruitful career.

And that’s what everyone must remember: These players are, like Serra said of the 16-year-old Castro, little more than what we project them to be. They may seem sure things. We damn sure treat them like sure things. But they will fail, and their ultimate value as a player will be how these failures affect them.

Castro went 0-for-2 on Monday, his first hitless game. He also made an error, his second. It was the most highly anticipated debut at Wrigley since Mark Prior’s,(notes) and it was as inauspicious as it was anticlimactic.

Which was fine. They’ve got plenty of time to fall back in love with him. Jose Serra did the dreaming. Now Starlin Castro, this week’s phenom in a year full of them, is Chicago’s to savor.


this should maybe add back a few of the warm and fuzzies after the 3 error game...

...smile Castro...you be famous

Jilly Bohnson
05-11-2010, 01:15 PM
I normally really like Passan, and this was a nice article, but he's really got to lay back on the phenom thing. It's overused to the point where it doesn't really mean that much. Jason Heyward is a phenom, Stephen Strasburg is a phenom, Mike Stanton and Aroldis Chapman are arguable, no one else on that list is. The rest, especially Mike f'ing Leake, are just good prospects.

05-11-2010, 01:37 PM
The same Leake that just owned us? PHENOM city baby.

05-11-2010, 01:38 PM
Passan is a know-nothing punk. His writing isn't worth the paper its written on.

05-11-2010, 01:39 PM
Passan is a know-nothing punk. His writing isn't worth the paper its written on.

What of it's typed?

Jilly Bohnson
05-11-2010, 01:40 PM
Passan is a know-nothing punk. His writing isn't worth the paper its written on.

That's really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really wrong. He's one of the best in the business.

05-11-2010, 02:16 PM
He needs to go back to Kansas City and practice by writing more about the Royals. He only writes fluff pieces for yahoo. I honestly think he waits until everyone else in the mainstream media his written about a topic then he steals their points of view.

Next up....an article on how "Jason Heyward is the next big thing"

05-11-2010, 04:15 PM
Since he went all the way back to Dwight Smith, I'd say he was a little kind with his Cub prospect busts. Among those he might have mentioned were:

Derrick May (9th overall pick, 1986)
Mike Harkey (4th overall pick, 1987)
Earl Cunningham (8th overall pick, 1989)
Doug Glanville (12th overall pick, 1991)
Derrick Wallace (11th overall pick, 1992)
Brooks Kieschnick (10th overall pick 1993)
Jayson Peterson (15th poverall ick, 1994)

And that doesn’t even include first round pick (busts):
Lance Dickson (1990)
Luke Hagerty and Bobby Brownlie (2002)
Mark Pawelek (2005)

Plus guys like Andy Sisco, Pat Cline, Brandt Brown, etc., etc….