Looking Forward to Luis

After a long hiatus, Luis Castillo is returning from the disabled list and scheduled to be in the starting lineup tonight against the Astros.

UPDATE: Luis will NOT be returning just yet … but feel free to read on anyway.

Many people are unhappy with this development. However, I’m not one of those people. In fact, I am excited to see Luis Castillo back at second base and in the #2 spot in the lineup. Allow me to explain.

First, let’s get the love for Argenis Reyes out of the way. I absolutely loved watching Argenis play with the Mets over the last few weeks. I love his attitude, his selfless play, his hustling and diving, his ability to do all the “little” things, such as execute the hit-and-run, get bunts down, hit ground balls to the right side to advance runners from second to third. And then there is that “he’s always in the middle of something”, that if you didn’t notice on your own, was pointed out by the SNY announcers. His hunger to remain in MLB seemed to rub off on the veterans, perhaps sparked them to play just a little harder. Further, as astutely brought up by MetsToday reader “isuzudude”, Jose Reyes took Argenis under his wing, and began to show leadership qualities — a factor that should help Jose mature as a ballplayer going forward. Finally, there is that “chemistry” element that no one wants to mess with; in other words, the Mets have been winning with Argenis playing regularly — so why mess with a good thing?

Now, with all the love out of the way, let’s talk about Luis Castillo. People have short memories, so let me remind you what Castillo brings to the table:

– average to below average range, but sure hands, and great ability to turn the DP
– ability to get down bunts
– baserunning speed and stolen base ability
– ability to execute the double play
– ability to get on base
– patience at the plate; ability to get into deep counts
– contact hitting

So, when we compare Luis Castillo to Argenis Reyes, there are many similarities. Argenis was an OK fielder who extended his average range through hustle and diving. His double play turns were good, but not expert. Offensively, he was “always in the middle of things”, but — other than his recent hot streak — his overall contribution really wasn’t enough to make up for his average defense. Despite his .300 (actually .297) OBP, Jerry Manuel insisted on batting Argenis second in the lineup. You know what? Even a poor-performing Luis Castillo is going to get on base at a rate around .365. Plus, Castillo takes pitches, lots of them, and much to the chagrin of shortsighted Mets fans. Having a guy at the top of the lineup forcing deep counts is a “little thing” that adds up — first, it gives Jose Reyes a chance to steal second base, but secondly and more importantly, it wears down the opposing pitcher AND it forces the pitcher to show all of his pitches (this helps everyone in the lineup). With that patience also comes walks, and once on first base, a healthy Castillo can steal bases — something that was a bit lacking in Argenis’ game.

That’s the key — if Luis Castillo is at least 85% healthy, he should be an upgrade over Argenis Reyes in every facet of the game. Reportedly, Castillo has shown up at Shea looking several pounds lighter, and more fit than he was a month ago. If that’s true, it should put less pressure on his aching knees. In addition, I think the effectiveness of the Argenis/Damion Easley duo has not gone unnoticed by Castillo, and believe that Luis will be motivated to play at a higher level than we saw in April and May.

Think about it: a motivated, healthy Luis Castillo would be a welcome addition to the top of the lineup, and a potentially key cog in the Mets machine for the September stretch run. And hey, if he’s not healthy, and proves to be a slouch, the Mets can always go back to the Reyes/Easley platoon.

Now do understand why I’m excited?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude August 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm
    Man, I feel your pain, Joe. You take the time and energy making a whole big post over the return of Castillo, only to learn shortly afterwards he’s not coming back right away anyway. And I think that’s included in my lack of excitement over his return. All season he’s been inconsistent, both at the plate and in the field, and he’s always battling some nagging injury, prohibiting him from being the player we all think he should be. When healthy, he brings all the things you mentioned in the post to the table, but when is he ever healthy?
  2. joe August 23, 2008 at 9:21 pm
    Wait, when you say “…when is he ever healthy?” , are you referring to Castillo, El Duque, Moises Alou, Ryan Church, Matt Wise, Jose Valentin, Marlon Anderson, Angel Pagan, Brady Clark, or Trot Nixon?


  3. Micalpalyn August 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm
    Agreed. Its a shame to waste a giood read. At first i was in disagreement for the reasons isuzu speaks to. but then AFTER reading i changed my mind. Fact is Luis IS a better hitter and better #2 hitter.

    The point you dont (and wont) speak to is the Willie factor. coming off knee surgery Luis was late into Spring training giving a long look at A-Rey. In the early season Luis repeatedly complained of too much PT and need for rest..(leading to weak pop up disease).

    Its not so much the focus when he gets back, but the fact that a 2 headed tandem IS in place, and he also stands to be part of a 2 headed tandem which in retrospect could have been there in April.
    Conspiracy theory: I think that activating him closer to Sept, saves his health, and keep A-rey with the Mets who might demote/DL some other player (maine?).

  4. joe August 25, 2008 at 1:00 pm
    Mic, I think your conspiracy theory makes plenty of sense. Keep Castillo DL’d until Sept.1, and you have the option of including either Castillo or Argenis or both on the playoff roster when the time comes.

    Plus Castillo probably does need another week or so of rehab and strength training.

    I really believe Luis is going to be a major spark in September — he’ll have the added motivation of not only winning his job back but also winning a spot on the postseason roster.

  5. isuzudude August 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm
    I think the guaranteed $25-million greenbacks thwart whatever motivation we hope Castillo will muster for himself, not to mention the constant pain he endures because of his knees/hips/calfs/quads/oblique/etc. I don’t want to make a big stink over my dislike for Castillo, but the Mets have been a better team without him, and again I’ll say that in theory Castillo projects to be a more prototypical #2 hitter than anyone else on the roster, but that’s only if he’s healthy and focused. Not to be overlooked either is that Castillo has never been a platoon/part-time player, so who knows how his performance will be effected by the lack of PT. I’m more than comfortable throwing the Evans/Murphy platoon into the 2-hole for the rest of the year, and letting the Easley/Argenis/Castillo platoon hit 7th or 8th, depending on the situation.

    Time will tell, but the way I see it, if Castillo was really motivated by pride to come back for a strong September, he’d not only be tearing up on his minor league rehab stint (he hit .139), but he’d be back on the active roster by now instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting until the Mets are allowed an expanded roster. Just my opinion.

  6. joe August 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm
    Isuzudude, your opinion is respected.

    Here’s my thing …. Castillo was supposedly unfocused, unmotivated and unhealthy before he went on the DL, and he was still arguably better than the current two-headed second base platoon.

    I don’t buy into the Mets’ lower winning percentage being relative to Castillo’s presence — I think it is a coincidence. And haven’t we been told by SNY that the Mets’ poor performance was due to someone else (cough, cough, Willie) ?

    Maybe Castillo IS sitting on the greenbacks. But he’s played like a winner in the past, and that suggests he might be interested in playing this game at a high level.

    Ryan Church didn’t exactly tear things up in his minor league stint, so I’m going to throw that out the window.

    To me this is the bottom line: a bad Luis Castillo is still the best option at 2B — everyday. Further, an “adequate” Castillo will produce better OBP, same or better fielding, better baserunning, and better contact hitting. I guess the thing to me is that Castillo’s ceiling is higher, while we’ve already seen the absolute best that Argenis and Damion are capable of doing.

    And as mentioned before — if Castillo comes back and continues to crap the bed, big deal — the fallback option is already in place. Jerry Manuel won’t be giving Luis many chances to fail.

  7. Micalpalyn August 25, 2008 at 3:47 pm
    1. In spring tng Castillo did nothing, but his numbers for the yr are better than the current tandem. I’d be suprised if Luis did not go 20-3 withy a walk straight off the list.

    2. My opinion would be to have a faux 3-headed 2nd base with Easley being a main man off the bench. I think Tatis deserves at least a platoon in RF. It was said that Tatis was good off the bench. I’d be happy with Ryan off the bench too.