Going into Spring Training, there are a number of position battles to follow on the 2019 Marlins roster. Second base, however, should not be one of them.
Even with the addition of consummate pro Neil Walker, the expectation is that Starlin Castro will pick up exactly where he left off last season.
How did he get here? Traded from Yankees to Marlins last offseason
2018 MLB Stats: .278/.329/.400, 12 HR, 107 OPS+ in 154 G
2019 ZiPS Projections: .268/.310/.396 14 HR, 95 OPS+ in 149 G
Last offseason when their decision to build was made, the Marlins knew they’d have a young team on the field. They would need to add another veteran to join J.T. Realmuto and Martín Prado while complementing the youth movement.
Starlin Castro was that guy...or more precisely, he was “that guy” the New York Yankees insisted on moving in the Giancarlo Stanton trade in order to stay below the luxury-tax threshold. On Dec. 11, 2017, the Marlins officially said goodbye to their reigning NL MVP, receiving Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and José Devers in return.
Despite his initially reported discontent about being stranded in a non-competitive situation and speculation that he would be flipped for more prospects, Castro did in fact lace them up for the Marlins in 2018. He wound up playing in 154 games, starting 149 of them at second base. The 28-year-old led the team in both batting average (.278) and hits (165) along with playing very solid defense at second (.981 Fielding %).
And he even showed a knack for some clutch hitting, such as this walk-off back in July:
So what can we expect from Castro in 2019? Well, his career track record would say he’s consistently an average MLB everyday player.
With Realmuto now out of the picture, Castro is a serious candidate to represent the Fish in the All-Star Game.
Starlin Castro Career 162-Game Average
The most critical question surrounding Castro is whether or not he will actually finish the season with the Marlins. This is the final guaranteed year of his contract ($11.86 million salary), which includes a $16 million team option for 2020 and $1 million buyout. It’s difficult to imagine a trade unless the Marlins take some of the financial responsibility.
At the 2019 trade deadline, it would be wise of the Marlins to leverage a team in the playoff hunt with a need for a veteran bat or second baseman, and seek more young talent for their build. This would then allow for Castro’s successor, Isan Díaz, currently among the Marlins’ Top 10 prospects, to get his first taste of The Show.
Castro’s professionalism and steady bat will be greatly appreciated considering that his time in the Marlins organization has been mostly spent in the roles of mentor and stopgap. Whether it ends through a trade or the declining of that team option, 2019 is likely to be his final year with the Fish.