The New York Yankees traded for Chicago Cubs shortstop turned second baseman, Starlin Castro, to bring in a younger and more promising star to the Yankee infield. What they’re currently seeing from their double play combo is more than a treat.
By Christian Kouroupakis
A year ago, the New York Yankees had a walking corpse man the second base position. As a result, the exciting shortstop, Didi Gregorius, was missing a partner in crime in the middle of New York’s infield.
Today, the Yankees have seemed to assemble one of the best duos across Major League Baseball.
Gregorius and newly acquired second baseman Starlin Castro have a collective slash line of .385/.429/.558 and have only struck out four times in 52 at bats during Grapefruit League play here in Spring Training.
That production coming from the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup? Sign me up for that!
Wait, that production could continue into the regular season? Even better!
After Gregorius’ struggles in the first half of 2015, he turned it around and batted .294 while playing gold glove caliber defense after the midsummer classic.
Castro, after switching over from shortstop to second base, batted .339 and hit five home runs in 121 plate appearances compared to his .243 and six home runs in 443 plate appearances as a shortstop.
If I were Castro, I’d use my counterpart to assist me in the transition. Nobody had a tougher transition to life as a Yankee than Didi. He had to fill the shoes of Derek Jeter, who was the starting shortstop, the captain, and a legend for the Bombers since coming up in 1996.
Gregorius, while attempting to please the tough New York crowd, heard chants of “Derek Jeter!” during his Yankee Stadium debut. That would have me pack my bags and beg for a trade.
Not Didi though. Instead, he covered his ears and made his defense rank among the best in the league. Advanced metrics showed that he had the second hardest throw to first while having the highest efficiency of any shortstop, according to FanGraphs.
This duo has all the hype, but coming into Spring Training there were questions in regards to their chemistry on the field. We all know how easy Didi makes things look, but Castro is still adjusting to a new position and has had defensive problems in the past.
Unfortunately, there is not a decent enough sample size to pinpoint how well he’ll do in 2016, but there’s room for optimism. He was known as a good defender at short, and in that small sample size, it looks like he’s adjusting quite well to his new position.
In defensive runs saved above average, Castro had a -30 Rdrs in six seasons as the Cubs shortstop, and had a +2 as a second baseman (according to baseball reference). According to FanGraphs, Castro has a positive defensive rating in every year of his career with the exception of 2011.
Last season, he looked pretty good at second and from experience, shortstop is WAY harder to play so expect Castro to be an above average defender at his new position.
The three time All-Star isn’t, and fans shouldn’t expect him to be as elite as Robinson Cano was in his career in New York, but if you don’t think the middle infield Brian Cashman has assembled isn’t among the best in baseball, you’re sadly mistaken.
Middle infielders who can hit are typically a hot commodity that teams can’t get their hands on. The Yankees have two plus hitters that could certainly rank among the top of their position in regards to offense. Both should also be above average defenders (at least) and Gregorius should win the 2016 American League Gold Glove award.
The Yankees have built something special. And who knows, maybe this year’s double play combination could be as good as the Jeter/Cano combo was when they were turning two in the Bronx.