Perhaps it’s a good time to call the Starlin Castro trade a success.
The 27-year-old second baseman’s performance this season has been as impressive as the team en masse, as he currently leads Major League Baseball with 54 hits. On Wednesday night, while the Yankees steamrolled past the Royals, Castro finished 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
In 37 games, he’s hit safely in 31 of them. So, could Castro win the batting title?
“If I keep my approach and that’s the goal, yeah, I can do it. I know the talent that I have,” Castro told NJ.com.
The unique thing about Castro–which could be an answer to why the Cubs dealt him to New York in the winter of 2015–is that, in essence, he’s been hit or miss at the plate. While his batting average sits at an astounding .351 (163 PA), he’s only walked nine times, which means he also makes mistakes. But, his BAbip (batting average on balls in play) is .395, so his 28 total strikeouts are ignored.
Two years ago, the Cubs believed they didn’t need Castro to contend for a championship. And while things ultimately worked out for the Northsiders, the Yankees gained a well-established player who clearly wasn’t close to fizzling.
“He’s a talented hitter,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When he swings at strikes, he’s really good.”
Considering Castro’s age (only two years older than Aaron Judge), it’s hard to remember that he’s playing in his eighth major league season. He’s been an All-Star three times, and in those years, he hit .283 or better. Castro also has 1,201 career hits, which is only 62 hits shy of what Robinson Cano had totaled after his first seven seasons with the Yankees. That statistic alone makes the loss of Cano to the Mariners easy to cope with, as the numbers show that New York has replaced Cano with an infielder who’s consistent and capable of hitting the long ball. And if that isn’t appealing enough, it’s worth mentioning that Castro is owed $33 million through 2019 ($16M team option in 2020) while Cano–now 34–will garner another $168 million by 2024.
What’s also reassuring is Castro’s month-to-month OPS splits, as he owns a career .689 OPS in May, .681 in June, .666 in July and a best-.787 in August and September.
“I think the big focus is working hard every day and making sure the consistency comes,” Castro told reporters back in January. “That’s what everybody puts in my mind. Just try to be consistent in working hard.”
The Yankees have had four players (Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Don Mattingly, and Mickey Mantle) win the batting title since 1956. But the last time a right-handed Yankee won the crown was in 1945, when Snuffy Sternweiss hit a league-high .309.