Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is just 22-years-old, but has already been thrust into the spotlight as the Cubs' marquee player. For some young players, that role would be too much to take on, but Castro said it wouldn't affect him.
"Yeah I'm the face of the franchise," Castro said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "But it's not like that's something that's going to change me. I'm not going to stop playing hard or stop working hard."
Despite failing to hit over .300 for the first time in three Major League seasons, Castro made a lot of strides in 2012. Not only was his production up in several categories, but his effort and mental side of the game improved under first-year manager Dale Sveum.
Castro still had issues this past season, including leading all shortstops with 27 errors, but appeared to make improvements down the stretch. The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan said Castro appeared to be focused on almost every pitch following a fielding error and subsequent lecture from Sveum in May.
Teammate Jeff Samardzija said there aren't a lot of players better than Castro when he's focused. The Cubs must agree, as they signed him to a seven-year $60 million extension late in the season. Chicago is building toward the future and Castro is possibly the biggest piece to that future.