Starlin Castro was supposed to be a jewel in the middle of the Cubs order.
The young, talented shortstop was expected to be the star in the middle of the Cubs infield.
Right now, though, and maybe for a lot longer, Castro is a gaping hole where hope used to be.
He never could walk. He never wanted to. But who cared when he was getting 200 hits a year?
Now, though, he cannot hit.
Castro is plummeting down the lineup the way his batting average has plummeted into an unthinkable abyss all season. He has gotten worse every month. I mean, just look:
In April, Castro hit .333. In May, he hit .304. In June, .264. July, .235. August, one-stinking-eighty entering Wednesday's series finale with the pathetic Astros.
Castro might want to think about forfeiting September.
But wait. It gets worse. Cubs manager Dale Sveum has dropped a supposed untouchable from second or third in the batting order to fifth.
A No. 5 hitter? Seriously? Castro has 11 home runs this season and is averaging about one a week since the All-Star Game. He’s slugging .280 in August. That’s bad even for a Cub.
Castro’s RBIs are down, too, but part of that is the Cubs’ making August look like September with the call-ups of Hecanthit, Hecantpitch and Beerme.
Scouts don’t project rookie center fielder Brett Jackson as a star, and I believe he just struck out again. Rookie third baseman Josh Vitters has hit worse than Jackson. Since his recall last week, Vitters has gone 2-for-this-is-some-first-round-pick.
Anthony Rizzo, at least, looks like something you build around. Build with what, however, remains the question.
But wait. It gets worse still with Castro. Sveum said Castro would bat sixth or seventh on a team with a “prolific’’ offense and doesn’t expect Castro to start working pitchers.
“You can’t expect anybody to take what they are and put them in the leadoff spot and expect them to take more pitches, or hit fifth and think they’re going to (hit for power) or his second and (think), ‘I’ve got to take pitches because the leadoff guy is going to steal bases,’’’ Sveum said. “You can’t ask guys to do that, especially at this stage of his career, and the kind of hitter he is. You’re asking way too much then.’’
I don’t know if this is Sveum’s code that Castro is uncoachable, but the manager doesn’t see much hope for the important part of his lineup. So, Castro is a bottom-of-the-order hitter without much chance or desire to improve his on-base percentage. That’s some future.
Castro is young enough to change. He could improve, if he wanted to work on plate discipline. That does not seem to be the case, and that’s a bad thing. Castro seemed to be a big part of Theo Epstein’s rebuilding plan. Now, though, he has a better chance of being part of Epstein’s yard sale.
I don’t know when Cubs fans believed their team would begin to experience the sustained success that Epstein talked about, but I’ll see ya at the next Olympics.