Starlin Castro and Junior Lake are both 23-years-old. In fact, they were born just three days apart in March, 1990. Their baseball careers have been far less similar, but they have one thing in common right now -- they’re red hot at the plate.
Castro led the NL in hits in 2011 at the age of 21, leading many to anoint him as the next face of the Cubs’ franchise. Given those expectations, Castro’s 2013 season has been incredibly disappointing, even for Cubs fans like myself who are used to possible “faces of the franchise” falling on their face.
I admit, I drafted the shortstop in the early rounds for more than one of my fantasy teams this season and refused to drop him until FanGraphs convinced me to do so. That article was written on June 28, and it seems that it has acted as a tremendous reverse-jinx on Castro.
Since the article, Castro has had 7 multi-hit games and posted an overall line of .324/.368/.493. I’ve watched about 90 percent of the Cubs’ games this season, and believe me, Castro was as bad as his stat line was in May and June. Over the last several weeks, he has been making the kinds of swings that made him a two-time all-star before he turned 23, staying through the ball and driving it to the opposite field.
His BABIP for the season still sits at just .292 despite the hot streak, while his career average is .327. This points to more improvement in the coming weeks and makes Castro a very valuable piece with a very low current stock. Pick him up now and thank me later.
Castro may be hot at the plate, but he’s not the only Cub on a tear. Junior Lake made his major-league debut in Chicago’s first game after the all-star break, meaning he only has a handful of games under his belt in the Show. However, in that handful of games, he has posted an absurd .529/.556/.765 slash line, including two games with three hits or more.
On Monday against Arizona, Lake collected four hits, and in doing so, showed off all of the tools that he brings to the plate. He has great speed to go along with his bat and will steal bases in bunches (56 combined in 2011 at High-A and AA and 21 in 103 games at AAA last season).
The rookie is aggressive, swinging at 50 percent of pitches he sees, frequently swinging at the first pitch. This aggressiveness will make it difficult for pitchers to learn his weaknesses as a hitter in his first tour of the big leagues.
I fully expect him to continue hitting for high average over the next month or so and could easily envision him as a poor man’s Yasiel Puig, putting up big number in the first month of his career. I highly recommend picking him up now, and then selling high when big league pitching begins to catch up with him.
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