Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria has made a lot of headlines during his tenure with the club, mostly discussing his positive attitude and the way he’s going to handle the team’s younger players, but he has rarely made direct comments about what he’ll decide to do with the lineup once the season begins in April.
On Sunday, he broke from that trend a bit, discussing a potential place to put shortstop Starlin Castro in the lineup:
#Cubs Renteria looking at Starlin Castro as leadoff man
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 16, 2014
The thought of putting the free-swinging Castro in the lead-off spot may strike some fans as strange, but it isn’t the craziest idea in the world. After all, Castro does have experience there, with 181 plate appearances in the lead-off position last year. He hit for a .263 average to go along with a .315 on-base percentage. Neither of those numbers were particularly great, but they aren’t awful either, especially on a team that doesn’t have a player tailor-made for the position.
Junior Lake would be another guy to potentially plug in there, but outside of him, the well dries up quickly. The problem with Lake is that his experience was very limited, with only 39 plate appearances in that slot during the 2013 campaign. He did rack up 15 hits and six RBI hitting lead-off, with a .405 average and .436 on-base percentage, but those numbers are slightly deceiving because of the limited number of chances that he got there.
Renteria would definitely be well-served to try both players out in the lead-off position during spring training, but it’s interesting that he’s so willing to give Castro a crack at the spot. Castro’s ability to hit to the opposite field and unwillingness to take walks would seem to work better for him in the second or fifth slot in the lineup, but Renteria could be influenced by the mediocre .235 average Castro carried with runners in scoring position last year.
At any rate, as a new manager Renteria seems to be eager to use the clean slate that he’s been given in terms of tinkering with line-ups and making decisions, and putting Castro in the lead-off slot would definitely qualify.