Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro has one thing on his mind when he steps to the plate - grip it and rip it. Castro isn't looking to draw walks, rather he's there to lace base hits, which he can accumulate in batches.
Castro's return to the Yankees after a second stint on the disabled list has been enough to provide a certain boost to the club's offense, which was scuffling without him in the lineup. Castro is hitting .372 with five doubles, a home run and nine RBIs in 45 plate appearances in 11 games since his return.
Castro's current slash line - .313/.352/.479 - would all be career-high marks. Castro has 18 doubles, 13 home runs, 54 RBIs and 115 OPS+ in 383 plate appearances. Castro entered the 2017 season sitting at No. 9 in base hits among all players since 2010. Even with Castro missing 58 games this season, mostly due to a right hamstring injury, he has managed to slide just one spot to No. 10.
Castro's knock continues to be his fielding. Advanced fielding metrics show Castro has cost the Yankees runs this season (-3 defensive runs saved) and he's accumulated a career-worst -13.7 UZR/150 measure in 2017. Castro, 27, has never been an exceptional fielder, which could eventually force a shift away from the middle of the diamond. That could spell a dilemma for the Yankees.
Castro might be able to handle third base for a time, but the Yankees have Chase Headley under contract next season. Beyond that the Yankees farm system is close to sending two top prospects to the majors that could be involved in manning third base.
Miguel Andujar (3B), the team's No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and the organization's top prospect, Gleyber Torres (2B/SS/3B), could be bucking for infield positions in the next year. While Andujar's glove is potentially a bigger issue than Castro's, the 22-year-old could supplant Headley by the midpoint of next season if he is simply average in the field, considering the youngster's strong bat.
Torres was getting time all over the infield this year before succumbing to an injury which required Tommy John surgery. Torres has just 23 games of experience in Triple-A, so a shift for Castro off second base is not in the immediate future, but if both Andujar and Torres have progressed to the point where they are ready to receive everyday at-bats by 2018's midseason, where would that leave Castro?
There is the chance that Andujar is traded or is pushed into a DH role, which could allow the Yankees to shift Torres over to third base and provide Castro a reprieve at second base. However, the Yankees do not have anyone signed for the 2018 season to be the designated hitter. While Castro likely mans second base for a considerable amount of the early part of next season, if Torres pushes the envelope, the Yankees could contemplate utilizing Castro as their DH with both Headley and Andujar likely in the mix at third base.
Testing Castro at DH would be an interesting prospect. First, it would allow the Yankees to stay away from the mid-to-late-30s player who is on the wrong side of his career, instead putting a player still in his prime in a role he could excel at.
Castro will play his 2019 season at 29 years old. The Yankees will pay Castro just $21 million over the next two seasons and has a $16 million club option for 2020.
There is little doubt Castro is a hitter before fielder and it's also clear that he makes the Yankees offense better. Chances are good that Castro's bat will not suffer in two or three year's time and it could be argued that concentrating solely on the offensive side of the game might allow his offense to flourish.
For now, the Yankees will be fine with Castro at second base, doing just enough to not derail the club with his glove, while his bat continues to rack up hits. Castro's bat alone could keep him in New York regardless of the prospects knocking on the door.