Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 Sleeper: Brad Emaus 2B (or utility) New York Mets

posted by Jon Williams
The New York Mets and many of their fans have been bitching about Luis Castillo and his unsuitability to be their starting second baseman almost since he arrived in New York. It's probably a little unreasonable in intensity... Fortunately, for those New Yorkers and the Mets, the pain is almost over. The new Mets management has options to replace Castillo and it appears that they will. Castillo is in the final season of a four year deal and is scheduled to earn $6 million. He could very well collect it playing for another team. Sandy Alderson appears to be the type of General Manager that will acknowledge a mistake and cut a player rather than continually try to prove he was right.

Reese Havens is the future at the position if all goes well but for now it appears to be a competition between four players: Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, Justin Turner and the incumbent Luis Castillo.

Daniel Murphy

Last year the Mets the Mets saw Daniel Murphy as an infield option but injury took him out early in the season and he was not a factor in 2010. But Murphy is now healthy and expected to compete for the job of starting second baseman. To prepare for the 2011 season Murphy signed up for the Dominican Winter League. He batted .320/.395/.515 with four homers and five steals (only caught once) in 103 at-bats. A small sample to be sure, but an encouraging one.

Murphy is a natural third baseman but the Mets believe he can handle second base defensively, or at least that he'll be better in the infield than the outfield. From a scouting report in the Boston Globe:
"He’s a good enough athlete where he can pull it off,’’ said the scout, "but it will take time just to learn all the nuances of the position. I can see their thinking. He can hit. A sound player. This would be a nice conversion for them at a position they need help at."
Murphy has the patience to draw walks. He is also a good contact hitter but swings at a few too many pitches out of the strike zone, which limits his batting average potential. He has decent power for a middle infielder and the speed and ability to steal 15-20 bases in full-time at-bats. Murphy is probably the favorite to win the position based on his talent and major league experience. He's likely to be on the major league roster even if he fails to win the starting job. Murphy seems idealy suited for an injury prone Mets team. He can play several positions and will not embarrass himself with the bat. Those skills are best utilized from the bench.

Justin Turner

The Mets picked up Justin Turner on waivers from the Baltimore Orioles where he was a fan favorite but was apparently unappreciated by the team's management. In his brief Major league appearances Turner has failed to hit effectively. Turner can play all over the infield including short stop and the Mets called him up when Jose Reyes needed a mid-summer break. But despite his major league woes, turner had a very strong season in Triple-A for the Mets, batting .333/.390/.516 with 11 homers and five steals (caught three times) in 312 at-bats. He followed his strong Triple-A stint with a solid performance in the Dominican Winter League where he slashed .318/.382/.438 with a homer in 80 at-bats.

Turner has always shown the ability to hit for a strong batting average. This is based mostly on his strong contact skills, and some ability to draw walks. He has a little pop, nothing to write home about, and doesn't steal bases. His value is in hitting for average and defensive versatility. He is also a very strong hitter against left-handed pitchers. Although he is seemingly popular wherever he goes, Turner may be the unlikeliest candidate for the job based on a lack of power and speed but he has his supporters.

Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo was a decent player with the Florida Marlins who brought him up and with the Minnesota Twins during his short stint with them. He has never shown any power. His fanalytic value has always been tied to his batting average and stolen bases. His speed on the bases has gradually evaporated and the batting average comes and goes. For the Mets, Castillo has been bad and worse, two out of three seasons. He still draws a decent number of walks but his average has been so bad that his on-base percentages have been mediocre. The decline in speed has also killed his defense, which has been terrible for the Mets. Even if Castillo had a great Spring Training he would have a hard time winning the faith of the Mets management.

Brad Emaus

The Mets used their first Rule V draft pick on natural second baseman Brad Emaus, so he must stay on the major league roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Toronto Blue Jays. It is difficult to say how determined the Mets are to have Emaus on the 25-man roster. One the one hand, they did draft him and pay the Blue Jays cash to take him off their hands. On the other hand, the Mets (even in their current state) have the money to blow just to take a look at a player.

My hunch says that the Mets are serious about Emaus. Sandy Alderson, is serious about team building and making maximum use of all his resources. His assistant Paul Depodesta is a stats guy and has to love a player like Emaus for reasons that will soon become apparent to you. Another assistant J.P. Ricciardi ran the Blue Jays when Emaus was drafted and likely knows him better than most. I think Emaus will stick around. The question is in what role.

Here's what Emaus had to say about being picked to Baseball America:
“My agent (ACES’ Mike Zimmerman) told me this week that there was a 50-50 chance I’d be taken in the Rule 5, and right now I’m just very ecstatic, excited to be given another chance by the Mets,” Emaus said via phone from the Dominican. Asked to give Mets fans a scouting report, Emaus said, “I’m just a blue-collar guy, a solid guy who has to know the game, has to have some (baseball IQ) because I don’t have great tools. I’m not flashy but I bring my best every day and go out trying to find an edge.”
Emaus spent the 2010 season playing at two levels for the Toronto Blue Jays. In Double-A, he slashed .272/.402/.434 with five homers and five steals in 170 at-bats. After being promoted to Triple-A, he hit .298/.395/.495 with ten homers and eight stolen bases. A nice season that he followed up in the Dominican Winter League (noticing a theme?) where he slashed .268/.345/.449 with one homer and two steals in 127 at-bats.

Emaus has a fantastic eye and a ton of patience at the plate. He has solid power, which is mostly double at this point but there is still room for that to turn to homer power. Right now he probably would hit 10-15 homers in a full season of at-bats with an upside of 20. He has decent not great speed but is a skilled baserunner who will steal 10-15 bases per season. He should hit for a strong batting average based on his eye and very good contact skills. His upside looks a lot like Daniel Murphy's but he also throws in a solid glove at second base. He is sure-handed but with just average range according to scouting reports.

Conclusions

Murphy is clearly the favorite to win the job but Emaus is a dark horse with a ton of support in upper management. Murphy has the most major league experience and his versatility makes him a decent bench option. Emaus has a better glove at second base and gets on base at a tremendous rate, he would make a very good number two hitter behind Jose Reyes and in front of the powerful middle of the Mets lineup.

Luis Castillo is so reviled that it is almost impossible for him to make the team. It is probably more likely that he is cut than he becomes the starter. Justin Turner has some flash but lacks the backing to win the job short of an outstanding spring. There is a case to be made for platooning Turner with Murphy but that is kinda hard to predict.

More Mets News

From MLB.com:
Johan Santana visited Mets medical staff in New York this week and has been cleared to begin a rehab program "which will have him throwing before the start of Spring Training," according to a team spokesman. Santana, 31, had been sidelined since undergoing September surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. His original rehab schedule called for him to begin playing catch in January, leading the spokesman to say, "It's about where we're supposed to be."

Though there is no concrete timetable for his return, the Mets do not expect him back until around mid-season.
Check It Out!

Our friend Jason Collette has moved on to Baseball Prospectus (FanBall.com is leaving us soon) and the link leads to his first piece on a few underrated pitchers that fantasy owners should consider. Check it out!

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/1/6/1920032/the-mets-options-at-second-base

http://www.metsminorleagueblog.com/2010/12/02/watching-justin-turner-live-in-december/

http://www.metsminorleagueblog.com/2011/01/12/comparison-brad-emaus-justin-turner/

http://risingapple.com/2010/05/26/mets-claim-justin-turner-from-orioles/

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