If you take a look at the overall landscape of major league baseball, several things are likely to become apparent fairly quickly. The Padres are pulling out all of the stops in the hopes of contending this year. The Braves are not. Mike Trout is an elite professional baseball player. Skip Schumaker is not. The Cubs are a team that’s on the rise. Veteran offseason additions (Lester, Fowler), a new big ticket manager, and an impressive collection of young organizational talent (Rizzo, Bryant, Soler, Russell) has fans dreaming of finally breaking the longest championship drought in professional sports. Amidst all of the hoopla, Starlin Castro seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle somehow. Or has he?

Since he’s just begun his 6th MLB campaign, it’s easy to forget that Castro is still only 25 years old. For a player who’s theoretically just entering his prime years, his resumé is pretty impressive already. In 2010, he hit a home run off of Homer Bailey in his first major league at bat. In 2011, he became the youngest Chicago Cub to make an All-Star team as well as the youngest player ever to lead the National League in hits with 207. In 2012, he earned a 2nd All-Star berth and played in all 162 regular season games for the Cubs. I shouldn’t neglect to mention that he struggled in the field during this three year time period, leading MLB with 83 errors and posting the lowest fielding percentage among shortstops with a .959 mark. Despite these defensive issues, Castro’s star was clearly on the rise.

And then 2013 happened. It was an “off” year for Castro to say the least. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s bring this discussion back into the fantasy world and focus on offensive production. While Castro has been seemingly overlooked in real life this offseason, that hasn’t necessarily been the case in the fantasy world (ESPN ADP of 79.9; NFBC ADP of 106.65). Is the hype justified? Let’s take a look at some offensive stats produced by four different MLB shortstops across the 2013-14 seasons, blind resumé style:

Player A 1076 32 111 130 6 0.28
Player B 1178 28 140 125 19 0.241
Player C 1274 24 117 109 13 0.265
Player D 1234 24 120 105 10 0.246

Here are a few more key stats to compare/contrast:

Player A 8.60% 19.50% 0.44 0.169 0.794 0.349
Player B 7.10% 18.80% 0.38 0.153 0.697 0.307
Player C 5.10% 18.00% 0.28 0.121 0.696 0.307
Player D 5.80% 9.30% 0.63 0.12 0.657 0.289

The first table contains the standard 5×5 statistical categories – home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, stolen bases, and batting average. Player A leads the way in HR, RBI, and AVG despite having the fewest plate appearances of the group. Player B produced the most runs and stolen bases. Players C and D were either somewhere in the middle or at the very bottom of each category across the board.

The second table contains some key plate discipline categories as well as a few that encapsulate power and on-base skills. When looking at this table, you’ll notice that Player A shines once again with the highest BB%, ISO, OPS, and wOBA of the bunch. Players B and C are fairly similar here, with B having a slight edge in overall plate discipline and power. Player D was the toughest player to strike out by a good margin, but generally lagged slightly behind the others in terms of overall power and on-base skills.

It’s time to reveal the identities of the mystery contestants:

Player A is Jhonny Peralta

Player B is Asdrubal Cabrera

Player C is Castro

Player D is Andrelton Simmons

Over the last two seasons, Castro has essentially been as valuable in fantasy as Cabrera and only slightly more so than Simmons. That’s quite shocking considering the fact that both Cabrera and Simmons were drafted in the late rounds in the majority of shallow mixed league formats, and even undrafted in some others. Castro’s main issue that’s hindered his fantasy value recently is the fact that he’s stopped running over the past couple of years. He stole 22 bases in ’11, 25 in ’12, then followed those totals up with 9 SBs in ’13 and only 4 last season. I haven’t seen any indication that he’s going to return to double digit territory any time soon either. Consider the fact that he’s never hit more than 14 home runs in any season in his career and you have a useful player but one with a severely limited fantasy ceiling.

Final Verdict:

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