Going Deep: Twinkle Twinkle Little Starlin

Andy Patton takes a look at Starlin Castro's rapidly improved hard-hit rate in 2018.

(Photo by Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)

Starlin Castro is having himself a nice, albeit quiet, season down in South Beach.

Castro is hitting .289 with seven home runs and four stolen bases. He’s scored 57 runs and driven in 37. Miami has hit him all around the top of the lineup, with 48 games hitting third, 20 in the leadoff spot and 12 each hitting cleanup and fifth.

All that’s fine and good, but is that really post-worthy? Well my loyal(?) followers – it is. And here’s why:

Castro is hitting the ball hard this year. He has a 38.1% hard-hit rate – the highest of his career by a pretty considerable margin. His previous career-high was a 31.2% mark in 2013.

With a dramatic increase to hard-hit rate, one would expect a jump in HR/FB rate as well. After all, if you’re hitting the ball harder, shouldn’t a higher percentage of your fly balls be leaving the yard? Apparently not, at least in Castro’s case. His HR/FB rate is at 7.4%, his lowest mark since 2013.

There’s one fairly obvious reason for this – Castro no longer plays in the MLB’s two little league parks: Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Those two parks were likely aiding him with regards to round-trippers. In fact, in Castro’s two seasons in New York netted him a HR/FB rate over 15% in each, despite never eclipsing a 31.2% hard-hit rate.

So Castro is hitting the ball harder, but is hitting less home runs because of his park. That doesn’t exactly make you all want to run and pick him up, I understand. However, Castro’s home run misfortunate is not only his home park – he has suffered from bad luck as well. xStats believe that Castro should have 10.4 home runs on the year – a pretty substantial difference from the seven that he has. Typically, xHR is within one of the player’s actual home run total, so this is a fairly big difference. If Castro had ten home runs at the All-Star break he would likely be turning a few more heads, especially for a player with 2B eligibility who is primarily hitting in the top third of the lineup – even if it is Miami.

The discrepancy between his hard-hit rate and HR/FB rate is the most interesting part of his hitting profile, but here are a few more tidbits on Castro for those of you who might be considering him. One, his walk rate is at a career-high 7.2%. He still only has a .337 OBP, but after two straight seasons with a sub-5% walk-rate it’s nice to see Castro’s plate discipline improving.

Secondly, Castro appears to be more aggressive on the base paths down in Florida. In two combined seasons in New York, Castro attempted six steals, and was successful on all of them. In the first half of his first season in Miami, Castro has already attempted to steal five times – with four attempts being successful.

That gives us a fuller picture of Starlin Castro this season: a few balls fall on the other side of the fence and you’re looking at a second baseman who is on pace for 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases, while posting a career-high walk-rate and hitting a hair under .300. He’s on pace to score 100 runs as well.

Castro’s value in the second half depends a lot on if he gets traded. Right now he’s under contract through 2020, with the last few years of his massive 7-year/$60 million dollar deal still in tow. Miami is looking to cut costs, and may try and move him if any contenders are interested. If he does not move, he will remain Miami’s #3 hitter. I could absolutely see a second-half with 10-12 home runs and 8-10 steals, while maintaining a .290 batting average. Second base has a lot of talented fantasy contributors, but Castro is a guy I’m willing to run with in 12-teamers and possibly even 10-teamers ROS.

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Content Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on dynasty deep sleepers, and the weekly hitter and pitcher stash lists. Andy also co-hosts the Never Sunny in Seattle podcast on the PitcherList Podcast Network, and separately hosts the Score Zags Score Podcast.

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