After watching a few of his team's Arizona instructional league games last week, Chicago Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken was very excited about a future star in the organization.
Or maybe that should be a future Starlin.
Meet Starlin Castro, an 18-year-old phenom who Wilken predicted will be a frontline shortstop before long. And the former Scout of the Year award winner has a pretty good track record when it comes to predicting these things.
"He's going to be a special player," Wilken said. "He's got every chance to be as good as or better than (five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove shortstop) Tony Fernandez."
Wilken enumerated Castro's tools as above-average power potential, baserunning abilities and defense.
"In his hitting action, he's got about as good wrists as I've seen in quite some time," Wilken said. "Very supple, and he'll have opposite-field power because he lets the ball travel."
When it comes to what he needs to work on at instructional league camp and in future months, Wilken thinks he only needs to refine some of the little things.
"Other than just concentrating on the little things that he'll need, there's not a real big hole in his game anywhere for me," he said. "He probably needs to get a little better on his basestealing, how to read pitchers, taking his leads, things like that. But I think he'll be able to pick it up because he's so instinctive."
Another thing that impressed Wilken was the fact that Castro actually got better as the season progressed, hitting .311 in the Arizona League, including a .345 mark in August.
"Guys start tailing off in this league in August, and yet he got better in August," Wilken noted. "So I think that's another attribute. If you had put him in the Draft this summer, he would have been a first-round pick."
Though Castro projects as a true shortstop, he also saw time at second and third base in Arizona, hitting three homers and driving in 22 runs while stealing six bases.
He opened his first stateside season with an eight-game hitting streak and batted safely in 14 of his first 15 games, hitting anywhere in the top three spots in the lineup.
While Castro was one of the big stories of the Cubs' 2008 instructional leagues, another was a top prospect who was absent: right-hander Andrew Cashner, the team's top pick in this year's Draft.
It wasn't an injury or fatigue that kept the Texas Christian University product home but a much bigger force: Hurricane Ike.
Cashner had been on track to join the Arizona program, but just as he returned to his family's farm just north of Houston after the end of the Florida State League playoffs, Ike wreaked havoc through Texas.
Though no one in Cashner's family was injured, the home was hit hard and the Cubs quickly gave him the go-ahead to stay there and help them fix things up.
Cashner, the 19th overall pick, is a 6-foot-6 right-hander with an easy delivery. After signing, he spent six games with short-season Boise, posting a 4.96 ERA over 16 1/3 innings. Following his layoff, his control was a little rusty as he walked 19 batters while striking out 16.
But after giving up one earned run over 10 2/3 innings in his final three starts, Cashner was promoted to Class A Advanced Daytona for the Cubs' Florida State League playoff push. His lone regular-season game there wasn't encouraging as he allowed four earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, walking four while fanning just one.
Once the playoffs started, though, Cashner was unhittable -- literally. In two long relief outings over the Cubbies' two-round championship march, he threw six hitless innings, walking four and striking out 11 and earning the win in the title clincher.