What If Luis Castillo Wins 2B Job?

After a long delay, Luis Castillo finally arrived on time in Port St. Lucie.

I know many people are miffed that Castillo didn’t get to camp a week ago, but he had a legitimate reason — his brother is going in for serious surgery next week. Even if he didn’t have a personal matter to tend to, I’m not sure that an early arrival would have made a difference one way or the other in regard to his chances of making the team nor in the way he is viewed by the new Mets management (the on-field and front office staffs included).

Yes, it would have been nice if Castillo showed up around the same time as the pitchers and catchers. But really, at this point, how would it have mattered? He’s been in pro ball for 15 years, and by now should have a good idea of what he needs to do to get ready for a 162-game season. You could say that by arriving early, Castillo would have “sent a message” that he’s “serious” about having a comeback season. But in all honesty, is that really what you want? Be careful what you wish for, the saying goes.

Let’s pretend Castillo had a key and opened the door to Tradition Field for Oliver Perez last week, and the two of them embarked on a high-energy workout to get the spring going. In turn, the beat writers and on-site bloggers wrote optimistic stories about how the two players have recaptured the passion, are in the best shape of their lives, and are determined to be key factors in leading the Mets into the postseason. How would you react?

1. You wouldn’t believe it.
2. You’d think, “figures they do this now, in their walk year, to earn another contract next winter”.

Am I wrong?

But let’s get back to reality. Castillo arrived on time. It doesn’t matter how he starts spring training so much as how he finishes it; by the time April rolls around, no one will remember nor care what day he reported to camp. He is lumped into a disjointed competition for the second base job with the positionless Dan Murphy, the underappreciated Justin Turner, and Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus. We are all expecting Turner to return to AAA because he has options remaining, and many of us are picking Emaus as our “favorite” — despite not being able to recognize him if he were sitting across from us and despite never witnessing him take one at-bat — mainly because he’s new and therefore must be better. If Emaus can’t win the job, we’re assuming that Murphy is the next-best bet — assuming he remains healthy and doesn’t look too much like Dan Uggla in an All-Star Game. No one wants Castillo to win the job, under any circumstance.

But what if he does? What if Castillo IS in the best shape of his life — or at least, in good enough shape to win the job? It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility for Castillo to look 100% and perform well over the course of 4-5 weeks. When healthy, he is a much better fielder and runs faster than all of the other candidates. He won’t be able to compare with the others in regard to hitting power, but he does have a keen ability to get on base via the walk and bloop single.

Imagine this scenario: Turner, Emaus, and Murphy all struggle with the bat, and all display their defensive shortcomings. Castillo hits .400 in the spring, has healthy legs, and turns the double play like it’s nobody’s business. He wins the starting job, Turner and Murphy go to AAA, and Emaus is returned to the Blue Jays. What does this mean for the New York Mets in 2011 and beyond?

2011 Spring Training

About the Author

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.

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