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Starlin Castro is open to playing third, and that’s good news

An increase in versatility could also mean an increase in value.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Starlin Castro is everywhere.

This week he took part in the inaugural Yankees Winter Warmup, a week-long fan fest promoting community engagement. He attended a press conference at Yankee Stadium, participated in a town hall discussion at the Hard Rock Cafe, and toured the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. He palled around with top prospects Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, and Justus Sheffield, while giving off light chaperone vibes. His presence on social media was nearly ubiquitous.

After his busy week, Castro might find himself on the move again. This time across the diamond, as reports indicate that he could audition at third base during spring training. “Whatever the team wants me to do, I'm willing to do it,” he told the Daily News. While the team scrapped plans for hot corner lessons last spring, this year looks more of a possibility.

Learning third base would benefit both Castro and the Yankees organization. As things stand, Castro is a below-average bat at second base. He posted a 270/.300/.433 batting line with 21 home runs in 2016, working out a 94 wRC+. His on-base ability is nil, and there’s little reason to believe that will change. In a era of strong second basemen, Castro falls on the wrong side of the mean.

As a super-utility player, however, he grades out better. I compiled a list of infielders who spent time at second base, third base, and shortstop in 2016. These would all be Castro’s theoretical positions. I then ranked them by wRC+. My threshold for inclusion was a minimum of 100 plate appearances.

Utility Infielder Batting Stats 2016

Sean Rodriguez 342 .270 .349 .510 18 9.6% 29.8% 129 1.9
Jose Ramirez 618 .312 .363 .462 11 7.1% 10% 122 4.8
Adam Rosales 248 .229 .319 .495 13 11.7% 35.5% 114 2
Tyler Saladino 319 .282 .315 .409 8 4.1% 19.4% 93 1.2
Andrew Romine 194 .236 .304 .322 2 6.7% 19.6% 71 0.6
Miguel Rojas 214 .247 .288 .325 1 5.1% 12.6% 62 0.1
Carlos Sanchez 163 .208 .236 .357 4 3.1% 25.8% 53 -0.3

Castro would slot in between Rosales and Saladino in terms of wRC+. That grades out to slightly above average, a net upgrade from his exclusive second bat batting stats. His power output fares better than the rest of the list. His on-base skills, or lack thereof, still needs work, but the overall numbers look good. Utilizing Castro as a super-utility infielder would increase his offensive value, assuming he maintains his 2016 numbers.

For the Yankees, Castro learning third base adds to their flexibility. It provides them a safety net should Chase Headley miss time with an injury. Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder are nice bench pieces, but the organization would probably prefer them to hold down second base in event of a Headley injury. The same goes with Donovan Solano.

The flexibility extends beyond injury replacement, however. There are more optimistic scenarios when considering Castro moving to third base. Prospects, notably Torres and Jorge Mateo, could force their way on to the roster with strong seasons. In this hypothetical, Torres or Mateo would play second while Castro takes the hot corner following a Headley trade. This probably won’t happen during the 2017 season, but could occur at any point in 2018.

Castro has received his fair share of criticism since his arrival in the Bronx. While he hasn’t performed up to second base standards, he hasn’t been a complete washout either. His value could also be on the rise if he learns third base. He could provide the Yankees with great flexibility.

There are reasons to be optimistic about the Yankees’ forecast. The Winter Warmup tour illustrated that, making prospects and young players visible in the community. It’s no coincidence that Castro made a number of appearances. The Yankees see him as a key part of their future, and that just might come at third base.

Data courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.