The hype surrounding the Cubs’ sure-fire, can’t-miss prospect, Starlin Castro, reminds me much of Brandon Larson.
Larson was ‘the talk‘ of minor league baseball in 2001–a sure-fire, can’t-miss prospect for the Cincinnati Reds.
In 1997 he won MVP honors during the College World Series for the LSU Tigers, then later became the Reds’ first-round draft pick (14th overall).
He climbed quickly through the minors, reaching Triple-A by 2001. The following two seasons he became an All Star of the International League batting .340 in 2002 and .323 in 2003, a season in which the Reds tabbed Larson as their Minor League Player of the Year.
All this proved little, however, at the big league level with Cincinnati. In parts of four seasons Larson never lived up to the hype. Playing in just 109 games he collectively batted .179 with 8 HR and 37 RBI.
And by the conclusion of the 2004 season the Reds’ third baseman-of-the-future was released. Larson next signed with Tampa Bay, was released, and later caught on with Texas, but to no avail–the Rangers released him as well.
I’m not suggesting Castro is a guaranteed bust because Larson failed to live up to his billing or even suggesting Starlin shouldn’t make the big league club out of Spring Training, either.
But what Larson’s story tells us, however, is that minor league success is no automatic ticket to making it in the big leagues.
Lots of Cubs fans are banking on Castro to become Chicago’s shortstop-of-the-future. His golden glove and .302 average have many believing he’s already there–simply move Theriot to second base and let the kid take over.
But sometimes, as was the case with Larson, that progression doesn’t pan out, just as any Reds fan will tell you.
If Castro’s ready for the Cubs this season, it’s great news. But being ready and producing are two different things–and Castro is not nearly as accomplished as Larson was as a minor leaguer.
Yet to be fair, Castro is just a 20-year-old kid with little professional seasoning under his belt. So if the youngster needs more time in Iowa, so what? It’s to his and the Cubs’ benefit.
If the Cubs are smart, they’ll do what the Reds didn’t, and wait to invest in Castro once he’s a proven major leaguer and not simply another Brandon Larson.