Last year at this time, nobody knew much about Starlin Castro other than what was in his bio: Castro was born on March 24, 1990, in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. But in all honesty, nobody had much reason to even look at Castro's bio. After all, the Cubs signed Castro in 2007 for about $60,000, which is not exactly chump change, but it's not exactly record-breaking money, either, like the $4.25 million Oakland gave Dominican teenage pitcher Michael Ynoa in 2008.
Really, the Cubs viewed Castro as a nice prospect when they signed him, and not much more than that. Very quickly, they realized he was much more than that.
In 2008, Castro -- in his first year playing in the United States -- hit .311/.364/.464 for the Arizona League (rookie level) Cubs. He followed that in 2009 by hitting .302/.340/.391 for Class A Daytona and then .288/.347/.396 for Double-A Tennessee, all at the age of 19.
Realizing that Castro will likely be an impact player for the future, the Cubs invited him to start spring training camp with the major league team this spring. Mostly, the Cubs hoped Castro would learn a few things from some of his teammates. Castro proved to be an eager student. Often, Castro -- who does not speak much English -- spent time talking to Spanish-speaking veterans such as Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, who took a liking to the youngster.
Soriano remarked that Castro's athleticism reminded him of what he was like as a young player. Soriano has made sure to offer Castro the same advice that was given to him when he was a young player with the Yankees, getting advice from veterans such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams: work hard and remain humble.
This spring, Castro hit .423 in 26 at-bats and tempted the Cubs to keep him on the major league roster. Ultimately, the Cubs thought it was best for him to gain more experience in the minors. It's likely Castro won't be there for long.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.