Will Luis Castillo Be the Starting Second Baseman?
In a recent interview of Sandy Alderson by Adam Rubin at ESPN-NY, Alderson made fairly clear that Luis Castillo either will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day, or he will not be a Met.
From the interview, see this particular exchange:
In terms of second base, Luis Castillo — in addition to Oliver Perez — is a lightning rod for the fan base. If Castillo does not win the second base job, is there another role for him on this team? He does not have a lot of pop, or run-producing ability as a pinch-hitter. And I don’t know that he’s capable of playing multiple positions. Is it kind of second base or bust for him?
“Well, that’s certainly his best role on the team. If he’s going to be on the club, it probably will have to be as the regular second baseman, or somebody who plays quite a bit of the time at second base. He just doesn’t give us enough coverage other places to play a utility role. So I would say he needs to have a role on the team. And I think that’s probably his best and maybe only role — regular duty at second base.”
Unless Castillo puts on the catcher’s gear and starts shagging fly balls, it appears that he has to win the 2B job in order to remain in the orange and blue. And it makes sense, because if he’s not starting, Castillo has very little value. Further, since the Mets are going nowhere, and Castillo has no future, it behooves them to give younger players auditions throughout the year.
Castillo’s competition includes Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Brad Emaus. From Alderson’s comments, it sounds as though they plan to give Ruben Tejada a full year in the minors, so he’s a darkhorse for the position. Additionally, the utility infielder position is Chin-lung Hu‘s to lose.
The thing I wonder about is how the Mets are going to give Castillo, Murphy, Turner, and Emaus enough reps at second base during spring training to make a decision. It would be a challenge if we already knew the defensive capabilities of all four players — because theoretically, you could alternate them in DH roles just to give them at-bats — but the main issue is that no one has any idea if Murphy or Emaus can handle the position, and if Castillo has any range left at all. Ironically, Turner is the closest to a “known entity” in that the club had a good long look at him in Buffalo last year, yet he’s most likely to lose the competition because he still has options remaining. Turner, in 78 games with Buffalo in ’10, and two seasons in the minor previous, he’s proven to be a solid offensive player with good plate discipline and occasional pop, and plays about average defense. Some might project him to be a righthanded Todd Walker, or a Mark Loretta. If he can reach the level of either of those longtime MLBers, he’ll do OK for himself. But it seems like the competition is more about whether Emaus and Murphy can field the position, while also hitting well enough to force the Mets to eat the last $6M of Castillo’s salary.
Here are the possible scenarios:
1. Castillo wins the job because he looks like the player he was in 2009: putting the bat on the ball, getting on base close to 40% of the time, showing enough speed to steal about 20 bases, making the DP pivot as well as he ever did, and showing barely acceptable range. If he can play up the level where he was at age 33, the Mets would want to start him on Opening Day and hope he can keep it up long enough to trade him to a pennant contender for a few prospects come late June.
2. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Emaus shows he is an offensive force and can play an average second base. Meantime, Murphy either struggles on defense or at the plate. Emaus gets the job, Murphy makes the team as a utility man / pinch-hitter.
3. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy shows he can play an acceptable second base and is hitting the snot out of the ball. Emaus falters either offensively or defensively. Murphy gets the job, Emaus is offered back to the Blue Jays.
4. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy plays an acceptable second base and hits well. Emaus does the same. Both make the team and begin the season in a platoon.
5. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy and Emaus both struggle either offensively or defensively. Turner keeps doing what he did in Buffalo last year and takes the job. Murphy makes the team in a bench role and Emaus is offered back to Toronto.
I’m guessing that, if nothing else, you like the first sentence of options 2 through 5.
That’s more or less every scenario. How Terry Collins finds enough time for all four players to make a fair evaluation is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be easy. My guess is the team would like to see Murphy and/or Emaus do something special to take the job, and those two will get significant reps early on.
What do you think? Did I miss a scenario? Do you think any of the candidates are a “favorite” of management, for any particular reason? How would you get everyone enough time on the field to make a decision? Comment below.