In the midst of a 2011 season full of high-priced disappointment and injury woes, the Chicago Cubs can at least take solace in knowing their team has one of the best young players in the game in Starlin Castro. The 21-year-old shortstop, signed out of the Dominican Republic for a mere $50,000 back in 2006, was recently a first-round pick in the Franchise Player Drafts held here at ESPN.com and over at FanGraphs.
There is significant reason for optimism: Castro has fared well in the majors at an age when most players are cutting their teeth in the lowest levels of the minors. The fact that he was good enough to get to the majors at this point in his career is an accomplishment -- that he's been one of the league's better performers at the position is even more impressive.
During the expansion era (1961 to present), a total of 21 shortstops have logged at least 500 plate appearances during their age 20-21 seasons. Of that select group, Castro is one of only four to post at least an average offensive line once park and league run-scoring factors are considered.