Is Castro no longer part of Cubs’ young core?

The young Cubs have come of age. Perennial darlings of prospect-watchers but also NL Central doormats, the North Siders are poised to reach October for the first time since 2008 thanks to an unrivaled collection of twenty something hitters (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo) complemented by aces Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Rizzo, at age 26, is the elder statesman of a position player core that’s the envy of rival GMs.

Starlin Castro was supposed lead that core. Instead, the 25-year-old shortstop who once elicited comparisons to a young Derek Jeter watches from the pine. A year after establishing a new career high in OPS+ (116) and earning a third All-Star bid, Castro has been such a liability in 2015 (59 OPS+, nearly a win below replacement level) that Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been forced to bench him.

Castro inked a long-term contract extension through 2019 (with a club option for 2020) a few years ago, when it looked like he was on the verge of superstardom. But today, there’s isn’t necessarily a clear spot for him with Russell looking like the favored son at shortstop and infielder Javier Baez lurking — and raking — at Triple-A Iowa (.878 OPS). It’s far too early to write Castro off completely, but those comparisons to the Captain now seem like ancient history.