Starring Role


Castro appears set to take next step

Rogers By Jesse Rogers

With his distractions behind him, Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will have a breakout season and be the MVP of Chicago baseball this year.

Castro is already a two-time All-Star, but he hasn't yet fulfilled his potential. That will change in 2013 when he puts up career numbers on offense and settles down on defense, where he's had some issues concentrating in the past.

Castro was on his way to a big season in 2012 but admitted that once he started contract negotiations with the Cubs, he got distracted. After batting .298 through June, Castro batted just .235 in July and .252 in August. But after signing his deal late in August, he took off, batting .311 in September. Overall, he batted .283 with 14 home runs, 78 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. When going right, he can do it all.

On top of it, Castro started the 2012 season with potential sexual assault charges hanging over him, although the charges were never filed. With all these things behind him, Castro is set to have a big season.

He'll bat second in the lineup, with Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano behind him, which means he should get plenty of good pitches to hit. As spring training opened, he vowed to walk more than his 36 times last year, and he's also insisted he will eliminate the mental lapses that have plagued him on defense.

"A thing of the past," Castro proclaimed.

More than anything, his seven-year, $60 million contract takes care of his family and sets his mind at ease. He'll turn 23 on March 24 and should be a three-time All-Star at midseason.

And he'll most certainly be the MVP of the city.

Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for

Young slugger poised for big season

Padilla By Doug Padilla

When it comes to forecasting an MVP for the Chicago White Sox's 2013 season, the easy route is to go with veteran Paul Konerko or the still-blossoming Chris Sale.

Instead, we'll go slightly off the board here and select a player who figures to take yet another step in his development as a power hitter and run producer.

Dayan Viciedo has what it takes to deliver big-time production, and that earns him the nod as the club's projected MVP. Hey, since we're projecting here, let's make it a little interesting.

This isn't to say that Konerko is projected to have a down year or that Sale will flop in his first season as staff ace. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that even if those White Sox stars produce, Viciedo is poised to deliver some eyebrow-raising numbers this season.

Take the young slugger's 2012 season. There were ups and plenty of downs, but looking at the final product of 25 home runs and 78 RBIs, to go along with a .444 slugging percentage, it shows plenty of offense from a player in his first full major league season.

A month into the upcoming season, Viciedo will have played in more total games in the major leagues than he did in the Cuban League. Who knows whether he will ever be as comfortable here as he was playing in his native Cuba, but his familiarity with opponents and his knowledge of what it takes to have success in the American League is growing.

In picking Viciedo as the MVP of the upcoming season, it acknowledges that his production against right-handed pitching gets better. His .350 batting average against lefties was tied for third-best in the American League last season, but he had three times more at-bats against right-handers and hit just .225 against them.

Against lefties he had one home run every 13.7 at-bats. Against right-handers it was a home run every 23.9 at-bats. An improvement in that category against righties should yield his first 40-homer season.

Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for