Yankees Surging Starlin Castro Overshadowed By Sanchez
While Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez has owned the headlines in New York in August, his teammate Starlin Castro has also been putting on an impressive power display this month.
Starlin Castro’s talent is undeniable. The Yankees second baseman made it to the major leagues at age 20, was elected to three All Star by age 24, and reached 1000 hits by age 26.
He’s also become an extremely frustrating player to watch the past few years, continually swinging at terrible pitches out of the strike zone, refusing to draw walks, and generally displaying zero discipline at the plate.
Through the first four months of his debut season with the Yankees, Castro was barely above replacement level, hitting .256/.292/.395 (81 wRC+) in 412 plate appearances and playing a below-average second base.
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For the second straight year however, Castro has begun to heat up in down the stretch. In 2015 with the Cubs he batted .350/.373/.573 (156 wRC+) in the season’s final two months. It was this performance that was most often cited by Yankees fans as the justification of the trade that shipped Adam Warren to Chicago and blocked Rob Refsnyder from an everyday job.
Castro has enjoyed easily his best month of 2016 in August. He’s hit .323/.350/.581 (142 wRC+) with seven home runs and 20 RBI over his first 100 plate appearances. His power surge has gotten overlooked because of Gary Sanchez’s historic dominance, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
“(I’m) just trying to go up there aggressive and when they give you a pitch to hit, don’t miss it,” Castro told Ryan Hatch of NJ Advance Media Saturday. That certainly doesn’t sound any different than what he’s been doing all year. Notably, his walk rate has not improved.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi attributed Castro’s success to improved pitch selection, telling reporters:
"It just seems like he has recognized pitches better, to me. That’s the big difference. What he’s swinging at are quality pitches."
Castro has always been a hacker, but he’s taken that approach to new heights in 2016, swinging at a career-high 50.5% of pitches, as well as a career-high 36.4% of pitches out of the strike zone. Both of those numbers have been even higher in August, so it’s kind of hard to buy Girardi’s explanation.
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So how to justify Starlin Castro’s recent hot streak? Luck I guess? Hitting streaks are a part of baseball, and Castro has shown solid pop all year. He’s hit a career high 18 home runs with the Yankees. His real issue has been his awful approach at the plate, and that doesn’t appear to be changing.
Still, Castro has been a ton of fun to watch hit dingers this month, especially combined with what Sanchez has been doing. Hopefully they can keep it up.