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?

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. Bubb February 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm
    Castillo doesn’t have to be that good to win the 2B job. Murphy who couldn’t play first or left won’t be able to play second. EMaus doesn’t sound like much of a glove and might not hit. Turner doesn’t seem to be very highly regarded despite having a good year at buffalo. And of course there is that 6 million dollar contract. The Wilpons don’t eat many contracts.
  2. Kevin February 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm
    I’ll do ya one better! Watch what happens if Ollie is successful as a “lefty specialist.” Before long, he might get a chance to close if KRod throws on consecutive days. IF (big IF!) Ollie gets a few saves, we could see an Ollie/KRod closer tandem so the Wilpons don’t have to pay KRod next year! (KRod has an option for 2012 based on appearances, if I recall). LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  3. mrtasan February 20, 2011 at 6:17 pm
    1. he wont win the job
    2. its his contract year unless he wants to retire, he’ll have to perform
    3. if hell freezes over, or he wins the job, then good, he better be playing well. otherwise, we will know as mets fans that collins and alderson do not have full rein of the team and that wilpons are extremely manipulative owners who deserve to be forced to sell the mets
    4. return on investment. we know we’re not making the playoffs, unless improbably, phillies lose 4 starters, atlanta falls on their face, or marlins and nationals decide they dont want to be in the NL east cellar anymore. obviously mets paid a heavy price dollar wise, time wise, and roster spot wise with castillo’s stupid contract. if he makes the team and plays well he’ll be more attractive and tradeable because obviously he will most liking not be offered arbitration or will not be a type b player since hes already on his decline. so trade value to a young playoff contending team is ideal.
    5. he will most likely not make the team. as someone else said, it’s the other 3 players in contention to lose. well castillo’s to lose too but the other players should get a good look unless wilpons are manipulative see number 3.
  4. Paul February 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm
    I’m fine with whoever wins the second base job, as long as it’s really the best player taking the job.

    I’d love it if Murphy can do it, but if it’s Castillo, so be it.

    I will not be happy if none of the four players distinguish themselves and Castillo gets the job because of his contract.

  5. Matt February 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm
    Anyone know why every article about the 2B job on every site/paper leaves out Ruben Tejada?
    • Joe Janish February 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm
      Matt, the main reason you aren’t hearing about Tejada is because Mets management publicly announced earlier this winter that he would be spending the year in the minors playing shortstop.

      After Jose Reyes leaves via free agency in the winter, the Mets will need a cheap solution to fill his place and Tejada could be that solution.

  6. Jay February 20, 2011 at 11:57 pm
    I had a brief twitter conversations with Jorge Arangure about Luis Castillo on Friday and I think he summed up the situation well when he tweeted “the whole thing is silly. we all know what Castillo can and can’t do. Spring training stats don’t change that.”

    I agree. We all know that Luis Castillo is one of the least productive offensive and most limited defensive 2B in the major leagues. If he leaves PSL as the Mets starting 2B it’s as much a sad commentary on his competition for the job as anything else because to expect anything useful out of Castillo at this stage is foolish in my opinion.

    • Joe Janish February 21, 2011 at 12:56 am
      I’m not sure I agree with Arangue’s assessment, because we aren’t really sure what Castillo can do / not do, and if Castillo proves healthy enough to perform at the same level he did in 2009, he does have some value — getting on base close to 40% of the time, posting a .730 OPS and playing adequate defense makes him better than Ryan Theriot, Clint Barmes, or David Eckstein and on par with Orlando Hudson, for example. Granted, that’s not saying much, but the point is that it’s not “silly” to think Castillo can be an everyday second baseman somewhere in MLB and be marginally useful.

      Though, I agree with you: if Castillo is the Opening Day 2B for the Mets, it is more a reflection of the lack of talent among his competition than proof he belongs there — particularly considering that the Mets are in rebuild mode and should be using this position and this time to be trying out someone younger and with upside.

      However, there is a part of me that hopes Castillo earns the job, goes gangbusters in the first three months of the season, allowing the Mets to trade him for a few prospects in mid-July. Is that so wrong?

  7. Bohnjetz February 21, 2011 at 1:11 am
    The Wilpons should hire the trustie Picard to get the money stolen by Castillo and Perez and give it bake to the Wilpons.
  8. gary s. February 21, 2011 at 1:49 am
    Joe, sorry but u are being delusional.235 b.a. in 2010.52 singles out if 58 base hits.Pathetic.No range, bad wheels.If i owned the team, i would have cut him after he dropped the arod pop up.Just the fact he is still around highlights what a bad operation this team still is.
  9. Ralph February 21, 2011 at 9:23 am

    My only objection to this article is this:

    When healthy, he is a much better fielder and runs faster than all of the other candidates.

    I don’t agree – he if he is healthy, Castillo is still an 35 years old – and an old 35 years at that.

    Even if healthy, I’m not so sure Castillo is a better fielder than all three of Murphy, Turner, and Emaus. One or more of those may be better than him at this point. Not because that guy is that great, but just because Castillo is that bad.

    • mrtasan February 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm
      i agree he’s 35…and hes not getting any better. Offensively, you can revive yourself as a hitter in the big leagues with age…but defensively no…you have a half life


      i dont see murphy ever being better than castillo defensively. murphy just isn’t built to be a skilled fielder. he is not fluid and only his offense will put him on the field. i dont know about the other guys since i’ve never seen them before

      • BobProletariat February 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm
        Agreed that Murphy is probably not better defensively than Castillo, and from the scouting reports it sounds like Emaus is just as bad. Turner should be better though.
  10. micalpalyn February 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm
    The flipside/ way-of saying it is that Emaus, Murphy, and Turner MUST be able to beat out an aged, bad kneed , one position player who cant hit, bunt or field.

    PS: per Gammons ‘Murphy can flat out hit’, If he can field he has the inside tract. Emaus is the dark horse to me. He could become Dan Uggla 2.

    • Joe Janish February 22, 2011 at 12:47 am
      Peter Gammons? He knows something everyone else who has seen Daniel Murphy doesn’t know?

      I’d be stunned to find out Gammons actually witnessed Murphy take one at-bat, ever.