Yankees: Will Starlin Castro End Up As The Odd Man Out?

Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees, as Yanks Go Yard has emphasized, are a team in flux with a plethora of talented young players that are competing for jobs beginning in Spring Training on February 15. With a limited number of roster spots for position players available, the competition is expected to be fierce. Some players who currently have jobs will lose them, while others will never have a chance to earn one. One of the more intriguing questions facing the Yankees will be what happens with Starlin Castro when the talent hits the fan.

The Yankees addition of Starlin Castro to the team via a trade with the Chicago Cubs could be considered the first move by Brian Cashman to “youngerize” the team. Only 26, Castro was projected to be the team’s second baseman for many years to come. But that was before Cashman ultimately turned the make-up of the team around with a series of trades at the deadline last summer that brought in new faces and talent to the infield.

Yankees Team Composition An Open Question

There’s speculation running continuously about the Yankees moving Castro to third base when Gleyber Torres is ready to join the team. Add to the mix players on the up and up like Jorge Mateo and Tyler Wade coming up behind him in the system, and it’s obvious that something has to give. And this assumes that Didi Gregorius is locked in at shortstop after the breakout season he had in 2016.

So, let’s count ’em. I see five players for three positions and all of the players involved are likely to be regulars, not role players like a Rob Refsnyder, who also has some ability and could emerge as yet another challenge for playing time.

And then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room who could stampede through this quagmire in 2018, Manny Machado. Wisely, Brian Cashman refuses to discuss any of the free agents who hit the market in 2018, including Bryce Harper, as potential fits for the Yankees. But if there ever was a player born to play in the Bronx, it’s the NYC-born Machado, who does everything with ease, speed, and power.

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Brian Cashman will tell you that none of those above players have jobs written in stone and that it’s open competition for everyone, including Machado, if and when he arrives in the Bronx. But at the same time, Brian Cashman, if he has proved anything during his tenure with the Yankees, is never a man without a plan. And somewhere in the back of his mind, even now, are the Xs and the Os of what he believes the make-up of the team will be in 2018 and beyond.

Starling Castro had a pretty good year in 2016 for a second baseman in the league, batting .270 with 21 HR’s, and 70 RBI. His numbers won’t knock your socks off, and his .300 on-base percentage must improve, but he certainly did the job the Yankees expected him to do. And not to be underestimated in the upcoming competition, Castro has numbers like these on the board, while all the others only have something called “potential” on the board.

Starlin Castro: Yankees Captain Of The Future

For Castro himself, he summarizes his take on the upcoming season this way:

"“I just try to help the young guys like Soriano did to me,” Castro said at the Yankees’ Winter Warmup town hall event at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square Tuesday night. “Just try to say the right thing, working hard everyday, come here to do one goal — to help the team win.”"

He also used the word “mentor” as one of his goals this year. Translation: I want to be a leader on this team. And with seven years experience in the big leagues and still in his mid-twenties, Castro is more than qualified to step into that role.

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Starling Castro is not the odd man out, and he isn’t going anywhere. He is destined to be the glue, along with perhaps Didi Gregorius, that binds the Baby Bombers together forming a blend of veterans and raw talent. Once Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are gone, it will be the strength up the middle guys, including Gary Sanchez, who form the nucleus of the team. And Starlin Castro just might be the one to develop into the nucleus of that nucleus moving forward.