The Battle for Second Base

An article by posted on February 18, 2011

The Contenders:

Luis Castillo- .235/.337/.267, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 6.7 UZR/150, 0. 6 WAR, $6 million, 35 years old

Daniel Murphy- .266/.313/.427, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 1.0 WAR, $400K, 26 years old

Brad Emaus- .290/.397/.476, 15 HR, 75 RBI (between AA and AAA), $400K, 25 years old

The Underdog:

Justin Turner- .316/.374/.487, 12 HR, 43 RBI (at AAA), $400K, 26 years old

The Long Shots:

Ruben Tejada- .213/.305/.282, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 1.2 UZR/150, -0.4 WAR, $400K, 21 years old

Chin-lung Hu- .317/.339/.436, 4 HR, 37 RBI (at AAA), $400K, 27 years old

Normally, a team will have two or three players competing for a position in Spring Training. The Mets, who have had a hole at second base for the past few years, will have as many as six different players competing for the second base job. Each player has his strengths and weaknesses and will have a chance to win the job.

Luis Castillo has been the Mets starting second baseman since the middle of the 2007 season. Castillo has had knee problems and is no longer an elite defender. As a result of his injury issues, 2009 is the only year in which he played over 100 games with the Mets. Castillo did hit .302 that season, but has struggled offensively during the rest of his tenure. One reason that Castillo has stuck around is because of his contract although new GM Sandy Alderson has said that he is not afraid to cut players with money remaining on their deals.

Daniel Murphy exploded onto the scene as a 23 year old in 2008 hitting .313 in 131 at-bats. This was enough to win Murphy the first base job for 2009. Murphy was hurt entering 2010 and had to begin the season in the minors. His minor league season was cut short after he tore his MCL while playing second base. Murphy has a lot of potentially offensively and he is still young.

Brad Emaus is an unknown. The Mets claimed him in the Rule V Draft this offseason. Emaus played most of last season in Las Vegas with the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate. It has been known that their home park does inflate offensive numbers. Emaus did not have an error in his 33 games played as a second baseman. His defensive abilities have been called in to question however.

Justin Turner impressed the management of the Mets organization with his ability to get on base and his power. Turner is a career .309 hitter in his minor league career. He has the ability to play multiple positions for the Mets which does help his chances of making the team.

Ruben Tejada was the third youngest player in the National League last season. He showed that even at age 20, he could hold his own defensively. Tejada is the best defensive player out of the group of candidates. However, the problem is that Tejada’s bat is not major league ready. Tejada struggled and looked overmatched at the plate. There has also been talk that Tejada may replace Reyes at short should he leave via free agency after the season.

Chin-lung Hu was acquired from the Dodgers this offseason for minor league pitcher Michael Antonini. Hu has had four stints in the majors with the Dodgers, and in his longest stint, he failed to prove himself, hitting just .181 in 116 at bats in 2008. It is not as if Hu has not shown the ability to produce offensively. He has a career .299 average in the minors. Hu has struggled a bit defensively at times. This is evident from his 109 errors in 712 games at second base in the minors.

If Daniel Murphy is able to show that he is healthy, he should be able to make the Mets major league roster out of Spring Training. In regards to whether or not he starts at second, it will depend on if he can show that he can handle the position defensively. That may only leave one more roster spot for a player listed above.

The competition will likely come down to Castillo, Emaus, and Turner. The one advantage Castillo has over the others is his large contract. Emaus is a Rule V Draft pick and if he is not on the major league roster, he would need to either be returned to the Blue Jays or the Mets would need to work out a trade for him. Turner is the only one in the group that has experience at shortstop. This is an advantage because he would be able to spell Jose Reyes.

For now, it appears that the advantage might go to Justin Turner because he can fill in at both middle infield positions. There is a decent chance that unless he has a strong Spring Training, Luis Castillo will be cut. Emaus’ chance at winning a roster spot might have more to do with Oliver Perez than anything else. If the Mets decide not to cut Perez they will carry 13 pitchers. If Sandy Alderson does decide that it is time to part ways with Oliver Perez, then an extra bench spot will be available. Emaus would likely be fighting with Nick Evans for that last spot.

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