Flames: Under-priced Castro already cashing in

Roto Arcade

At some point on every superstar's career arc, possibility takes a backseat to greatness. It's during this transformative moment fervor among fanbases ignites, putting opponents, in fantasy and reality, on notice.

Those who cross Starlin Castro's path better heed the warning.

The Cubs' wunderkind is growing up right before owner eyes. Going 8-for-15 with four runs and two steals against the woeful 'Stros in Houston, the budding bat entered last weekend's series against the Rockies on a mountain high. Carrying momentum over, he ripped three hits in the slate's second game, including a game-clinching three-run bomb off Felipe Paulino, a blood-stirring performance that commanded the attention of fanatics worldwide, and Jim Tracy. The beaten skipper, annoyed after the one-man mauling, called Castro a "complete nemesis," comparing him to an unrefined Vlad Guerrero.

The seeds of Castro's Impaler complex were planted last year. The much-hyped shortstop along with Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton, comprised arguably the most productive class of 20-year-olds in big league history. At a stage in life when most males are driven to access/consume beer, parties and life-sized Barbies, the fast-developing prospect was motivated to leave an indelible mark on professional baseball's highest level.

He set the tone immediately. {YSP:MORE}

In his first major league at-bat last May, the baby-faced rookie blasted a three-run homer off Cincinnati's Homer Bailey. Two plate appearances later, he roped a triple with the bases loaded. Knocking in six runs overall, he established a new MLB record for RBIs in a debut. Unsurprisingly, the hits didn't stop there.

Though his defensive immaturity was visible, Castro remained a stalwart with the stick over his next 124 games, joining exclusive company. He became only the third age-20 shortstop ever — Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan and Alex Rodriguez the others — to hit .300 while qualifying for the batting title. Considering he never logged a single Triple-A at-bat, his milestone achievement was quite remarkable.

As impressive as the lovable Cubby was a season ago, many in Fantasyland exercised skepticism in spring drafts. Outside his record-setting batting average, the youngster's mediocre yields in other roto categories were marginal at best (3 HR, 53 R, 41 RBI, 10 SB). Age equals Heyward and Stanton, whose forecasted values were expected to significantly dwarf Castro's, titillated the senses more. In some eyes, he was Elvis Andrus revisited. Still, his eligibility at a talent-scarce position made the barely legal infielder highly desirable in resource-thin formats. Shallow leaguers had a very different point of view. Selling for an average price of $3.20 in Y! drafts, a mere $53 short of what Hanley Ramirez went for, few mixed owners shelled out Oprah dollars to acquire his services.

Owners who didn't chuck another buck are already regretting it. Currently second only to Troy Tulowitzki in overall worth, Castro is on pace to turn a gigantic profit.

Everything has clicked. He's attacked pitches aggressively making consistent contact on offerings inside and well-outside the zone (91.7 CT%). Despite the fantastic results, Mike Quade would like to see Castro dial down the zealousness. From the Chicago Tribune:

"We'd still like to see him improve discipline-wise," manager Mike Quade said. "But not at the expense of what he's doing. It's a very fine line. I believe he'll be even better if he learns to lay off some of those pitches, because balls out of the strike zone are not always going to be put in play hard. … And he's such a young player, now maybe he never gets that and winds up being a fabulous hitter that has a long strike zone. We'll see."

Though Quade's concerns are somewhat justified, trying to alter Castro's plate persona probably isn't the wisest recommendation. The kid, after all, is batting an obscene .408. He's simply doing what he's supposed to do as a leadoff hitter — get on base in an attempt to manufacture runs. It's important to remember, Castro, like countless Caribbean imports before him, was schooled at the Dominican Institute for Free-Swinging. Repeatedly fouling off junk offerings is the aggressive hitter's way of being selective.

Fanatics hope Castro's attacking nature will soon pay off in the power department. Eventually, he'll develop into a perennial 20 HR contributor, but until his dirt-pounding 2.85 GB/FB ratio shrinks, a low-double-digit long-ball yield is probably his near-term ceiling. However, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has hinted, the searing-swinger could eventually bat third this year, greatly boosting his RBI chances. Until that switch is made, he will continue to be a top-flight, three-cat option (BA, R, SB) at fantasy's thinnest position. Drafted outside the SS top-10, he could outdistance pillars Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins, penetrating the top-five. Don't entertain thoughts of selling high, especially in keepers. This is the first of what presumably will be a decade-long string of sublime campaigns. Castro could soon be anointed Senor Cub, a designation original franchise "Mr.," Ernie Banks, would surely welcome.

Only 10 percent of the season may be in the books, but it appears Castro has already come of age.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 535 at-bats, .310 BA, 9 HR, 65 RBI, 77 R, 19 SB

Intriguing players owned in 20-percent or less of Yahoo! leagues

Matt Joyce, TB, OF (two-percent owned) — For the better part of two years, Joyce has been the old girlfriend with benefits yours truly simply can't quit. He's shown occasional flashes, but has mostly underwhelmed when provided semi-regular playing time. With Manny Ramirez off munching olives in Madrid and Johnny Damon ailing, the outfielder is again being given a long look. This time, he's taking advantage. Since April 10, Joyce has recorded six multi-hit performances, raising his BA 150 points. Slotted regularly in the three-hole, he's attacked pitches with marked ferocity, evident in his unsustainable 28.3 line-drive percentage. The saber community has always had a fascination for Joyce. His passive-aggressive approach and formidable ISO tallies (.236 in '10) suggest he could smack 25-30 homers with 500 at-bats. Because of his struggles against southpaws (.153 career BA), he'll continue to bat way down in the order when the matchup warrants. But considering his RBI-friendly spot versus righties, he's definitely worth a flier in deeper mixers. At 26, Joyce might finally be putting it all together.

Tyson Ross, Oak, RP/SP (three-percent owned) — Dallas Braden's disabling swings open the door of opportunity for one of the A's' brightest pitching prospects. Last year after posting a tent-pitching 10.66 K/9 for Triple-A Sacramento, the Cal product was promoted to the senior club, working almost exclusively out of the 'pen. When thrust into the rotation for a couple starts, he proved rocky, surrendering seven earned in just 7.2 IP. The 24-year-old, though unpolished, boasts tremendous stuff. His fastball routinely sits in the low-to-mid-90s and his mesmerizing slider is the best in the A's system according to Baseball America. His unique short-stride delivery and attacking nature only enhances his elusiveness. Staying composed will be key for Ross, but with upcoming matchups against dreadful Seattle and whiff-happy Texas, he's worth a short-term audition in deeper formats. Those searching for K Kraken should fish the free agent pool.

Ty Wigginton, Col, 1B/2B/3B (18-percent owned) — Readers who frequent the Arcade should be very familiar with the man-love spewed in this space over the versatile asset. Every time Wiggy steps to the dish, Jovi's "Bed of Roses" plays in Scott Pianowski's head. Affectionate feelings for the journeyman are justified. With Ian Stewart kicking dirt in Colorado Springs, Wigginton should earn most starts at third, though Jose Lopez will also be involved. When pressed into action the 33-year-old has been deep-league serviceable. Despite his paltry .248 BA with Baltimore last year, he contributed solid returns in homers (22) and RBIs (76). Historically, he's performed well at Coors, notching a career .327/.375/.481 line over 52 at-bats. Given his above average pop for a qualifying second baseman, he's worth perusing the wire for, especially in leagues that require a middle infielder. If he accumulates 450-500 at-bats, a final output in range of .275-20-70-65 is very possible.

Want to bean Brad in the head? Bring the heat on Twitter @YahooNoise.


Image courtesy of US Presswire

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