Yesterday, in the New York Post Mike Puma wrote that “manager Terry Collins is preparing to name Luis Hernandez the starter at second base.” There were many reasons to be skeptical of this assertion.
First, it ran counter to the Mets’ original plan of a four-headed competition between Luis Castillo, Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus and Justin Turner.
Second, there was zero confirmation of the Post report elsewhere. In fact, there were a number of direct refutations. Among them:
- Andy Martino in the Daily News continued to refer to the second base situation as “fluid.”
- Adam Rubin at ESPN wrote that the “widespread belief inside and outside the organizationis that Daniel Murphy will be on the major league roster, and the primary second baseman will be either Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus or Castillo.”
- Anthony DiComo at MLB.com wrote directly, “Contrary to a published report, the team has not yet decided on a starting second baseman, nor does it imminently plan to select one.”
- Andy McCullough of the Star/Ledger has Collins himself walking away from the Post story: “Still, Collins labeled “a little premature” a New York Post story that
indicated Collins had already chosen Hernandez as his favorite for the job. Collins also down played stories that painted him as a detractor of Castillo. “I don’t understand where that came from,” Collins said. “Because I’ve never been around him.”
- (Edit: it occurs to me that it’s in the other outlets best interest to play down the Post’s scoop. No one wants to look like they’ve been beaten to a story. Even so, it’s better to be a day late and right rather than a day late and wrong, right?)
Third, Luis Hernandez really isn’t a productive offensive player or anything close. He might be the best defender of the quintet, but he can’t hit. He’s a career .245/.286/.298 hitter in 265 AB in the big leagues. That should probably be the end of the discussion. However, lets keep going through this. He’s also the owner of a career .251/.300/.328 line in 3,279 minor league AB. Sure, he hit .298/.343/.427 for Binghamton last year, in the summer in which he turned 26. Then followed that up with a .280/.319/.376 performance in Buffalo. That’s his peak.
Joe Sheehan, in his online newsletter made the tremendous point: the Mets pitching staff will, aside from Mike Pelfrey, feature guys who are fly-ball pitchers, de-emphasizing the need for a premium defender at second. To quote Joe, who’s been one of my favorite writers for a long time: “My point? You would be hard-pressed to find an MLB team less likely to generate groundballs to the right side this year. The Mets are one of the last teams in baseball that needs to trade offense for defense at second base…..Luis Hernandez shouldn’t be within 50 miles of the second-base job, because even if he is the best second baseman in camp, he’s not the one they need.”
Ted Berg wrote some of the response I wish I did: Justin Turner needs a lobby.
Actually, I wanted to expand on Ted’s point. Lets compare the now five candidates in a more rigorous way. I translated the minor league performances of Turner, Emaus and Hernandez into a Major League equivalent using the wonderful Minor League Equivalency calculator. I applied the ballpark adjustments where possible, in Hernandez and Emaus’ minor league stops, but used the generic International League translation for Turner, so I could combine his Norfolk and Buffalo numbers. I left Castillo’s 2010 performance speak for itself. I left Murphy’s line in from 2009, untranslated as well. Here’s what it looks like:
|Player||Level – Team||AB||H||2B||3B||HR||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|Luis Hernandez||AA – Binghamton||225||67||12||4||3||.227||.268||.316||.584|
|Luis Hernandez||AAA – Buffalo||189||45||8||3||0||.237||.273||.311||.584|
|Brad Emaus||AAA – Las Vegas||322||74||20||2||7||.229||.311||.369||.680|
|Brad Emaus||AA – New Hampshire||145||32||5||0||4||.218||.322||.331||.653|
|Justin Turner||AAA – Buffalo & Norfolk||404||108||25||1||9||.267||.319||.402||.721|
|Daniel Murphy||MLB – NYM ’09||508||135||38||4||12||.266||.313||.427||.740|
|Luis Castillo||MLB – NYM ’10||247||58||4||2||0||.235||.337||.267||.604|
And what happens?
Two of these things are not like the others. That’s right. Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy separate themselves from the group as the only ones with OPS above .700.
Can Murphy be better offensively in his second big league season than his first? Quite possibly. Can he hack it at second? I’d sure like to find out.
MLE hates Emaus. It trims his raw .298/.395/.495 line from Vegas to .229/.311/.369. Ouch. I’ve touched on this before, but Vegas is a great place to hit. Moreover, guys who thrive in the minors by drawing walks sometimes have more trouble in the big leagues against the best pitchers in the world, who (Oliver Perez aside) throw more strikes.
If putting the best roster together for Opening Day were the only thing that mattered, I’d take Turner and Murphy and let Chin-lung Hu sub for both late in games defensively. Both Turner and Murphy can play multiple positions, even if they’re not great anywhere. It would actually produce some really interesting tactical options.
If maximizing the total talent in the organization is more the goal (rather than making the playoffs in 2011) it could well make more sense to keep Emaus, who would have to be offered back to the Jays if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. Given that, they could use the first few months of the season to find out if he’s worth keeping. I think this is the likeliest scenario, with Turner, who still has options, dispatched back to the farm and Murphy and Emaus in a semi-platoon. If Emaus is an asset, so much the better.
I’d release Castillo. He won’t be a Met after this year. It’s time to figure out who can contribute to the next Mets playoff team.
Reese Havens has 68 career at-bats above advanced-A. He could well be the long-term answer, but he must show he can stay healthy for a full season first. As Mike reported, he was idled for three days this past week in spring training with “soreness.” This isn’t a big deal yet, but bears monitoring.
Jordanny Valdespin owned a .315 OBP in advanced-A and AA last year and a walk rate of 2.9%. When he learns to get on base, then we can talk about him as a viable MLB solution.