Starlin Castro has been a big-leaguer, and the starting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs no less, for almost a year now. He has played 139 games for the Cubs since his astonishingly good big-league debut last May 7. He has exceeded every expectation during that span, and the most impressive part about it all is this: He has been the youngest player in the big leagues the entire time.
Castro turned 21 on March 24, nearly nine full months after the second-youngest player in the game, Tyler Chatwood of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And Chatwood debuted just last week. Castro was in the big leagues before Chatwood reached Double-A last year.
As cool as it is that he remains the youngest player in the game, though, the remarkable thing is that he has hardly missed a beat along the way. Thanks to poise I have never seen from a player so young, he has 164 hits in his first 139 games.
That pace is mind-boggling. To put it into perspective, consider: It takes 20 years with 150 hits, or 15 years with 200 hits, to accrue the magic number of 3,000 hits in a career and reach Cooperstown almost as a matter of course. By his 22nd birthday, Castro could well have 300 hits to his credit, and would be well on his way. Check out this table, with the hit totals listed for each member of the 3,000-hit club through their age-21 years:
If that list does not make you think, I give up. Even a middling year from here on would give the Cubs phenom a better hit total than the majority of history’s 3,000-hit batters.
Some believe Castro will add power and give up speed and batting average over the years. I disagree. I think Rudy Jaramillo’s swing school seems to suit Castro just fine, and since Jaramillo’s tenure in Texas was 15 seasons, we can reasonably assume Castro will remain under the tutelage of his hitting guru for a while yet.
Castro is a great hitter, a great athlete and because he currently plays shortstop and has viable defensive futures at second, third and in center field, he has projectable longevity. As long as this kid does not get hurt, he may blaze past 3,000 hits.