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Mailbag: Castro For Greinke?

Matt asks…

now, i know sounds like complete insanity, but here’s the situation:

i’m in a pretty deep 12 team, 7×7 league. one of our other players would like to unload greinke (10th rounder) and keep stephen drew (18th round) because of position scarcity. doing this would free up his 1-9 rounds for drafting pitchers, of which there are precious few quality arms available. i jokingly offered him castro over drew for greinke, and he’s accepted. now, i’m a castro fan, but i don’t think he’s going to be a fantasy stud — especially in a deep 7×7 league. should i hang onto castro, or take the offer? my gut is that castro’s stats can replaced, and a guy like greinke in the NL central able to be kept in the 10th is something you don’t pass up.

thanks in advance for any advice you could offer!

My guts says go for it, but let’s examine further.

The Cubs called up Starlin Castro last May and he immediately made a name for himself. He hit a three-run homer in his first big league plate appearance, and went 2-for-5 with a triple and six total RBI in that game. His first baker’s dozen games in the show resulted in a .375/.434/.500 batting line with ten steaks, and he settled in at .296/.336/.398 with 30 doubles, four triples, two homers, 31 RBI and nine steals the rest of the way, mostly from the second spot in the order. His raw fantasy output (.300 AVG, 53 R, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 10 SB, 506 PA) essentially equaled Jason Bartlett (.254 AVG, 71 R, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 11 SB, 532 PA) with an extra 50 or points of BABIP. Of course one of those guys is a veteran semi-journeyman and the other was named one of the 25 best prospects in the game before last season, so the expectations going forward are different.

Bill James projects a .310 AVG, 68 R, 4 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB performance in 2011 while the fans have Castro at .296 AVG, 83 R, 6 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB. That’s basically the last three years of Derek Jeter‘s career mashed together and divided by three, just with not nearly as many runs scored. Castro’s going to have to grow into some power, because he hit a total of nine minor league homers in nearly 1,100 plate appearances, though all those doubles in 2010 is a good sign. He’ll offer a very nice AVG and plenty of steals until that happens.

Zack Greinke, on the other hand, is a known quantity at this point. He’s unlikely to repeat his 2009 mastery just because that’s a unsustainable level of performance, but he’s a safe bet for a sub-4.00 ERA and a boatload of strikeouts. He’s obviously moving into the easier league (imagine him with 8-10 total starts against the Astros and Pirates) and a slightly more pitcher-friendly park (StatCorner has Kauffman Stadium‘s wOBA factors at 104 for LHB and 100 for RHB compared to 100/97 for Miller Park), so the already solid ERA and WHIP will get a boost just from the trade. With a very good offense and the makings of a solid bullpen behind him, Greinke will find the wins to be a little easier to come by next season. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on intangibles, but if you buy into the whole “he’s motivated now that he’s on a contender” narrative, that’s just another feather in Greinke’s cap.

The projection systems love Greinke and why wouldn’t they. Barring injury between now and then, he should be one of the first five or six pitchers off the board come draft day, well above a tenth round keeper slot. There are very few reasons to be pessimistic about his 2011 production.

Without knowing the ins-and-outs of Matt’s roster, most specifically what the rest of his pitching staff looks like, I say go for it and take the trade and Greinke. It’s definitely not as clear cut as I thought it would be when I first read the question, but you’re trading potentially elite production at a scarce position for close to guaranteed elite production in the rotation. If Castro was more established and didn’t come with all the risks associated with being a 21-year-old big leaguer, I’d probably say keep him, but he’s not. You’re getting the best player in the deal, and that’s never a bad thing.

Click here to submit your fan projections for Castro and Greinke. Send in your mailbag questions using this link, and I’ll pick one or two a week to answer.