In an interview with MLB Network last week, Moises Alou predicted that Cubs uber-prospect, Starlin Castro, would be in the big-league lineup sometime this season, perhaps even in April. Alou couldn't speak highly enough of Castro, who he coached very briefly in the Dominican Winter League, before the Cubs insisted that he shut it down for a month or two.
Castro's star, already on the horizon, shot into the national baseball consciousness this November, when he hit .376 in the Arizona Fall League. The shortstop, who isn't yet 20-years-old, has hit for a high average and shown decent plate discipline at every level thusfar, though he hasn't yet displayed any power. Not including the AFL, he's got only 31 games above A-ball. It seems unlikely that the Cubs, who consider themselves potential contenders in the NL Central, would be willing to hand him an everyday job right out of the gate in 2010, as the Rangers did for Andrus in 2009 (Andrus, though like Castro in many ways, had, at least, one full season at AA).
However, the fact that the Cubs didn't sign a second-baseman this winter and already appear to have a plan of succession in place makes it more believable that Castro's arrival might be less than a year away. If Castro can really flash the leather, forcing Ryan Theriot to move back to second base, than Chicago will get better defensively at two critical positions and the offense may be, at least, a wash, as Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker, the current second base platoon, really bombed in '09.
I'm all for giving Fontenot and Baker another chance, and thus giving Castro a little more minor-league seasoning, but if that platoon hasn't improved dramatically on their '09 performance by July, there will be nothing to stop Jim Hendry from turning the infield and the eight-hole in the lineup over to Starlin.