Emaus finding opportunity with Mets

3/29/2011 - MLB New York Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Luis Castillo will cost the New York Mets $6 million this season. But the team's Opening Day second baseman actually may earn the major league minimum, plus a $50,000 claiming fee.

The Mets selected Brad Emaus from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft on the final day of the winter meetings in December. If Emaus sticks on the Mets' major league roster the entire season, he will become the team's property. Otherwise, the 24-year-old infielder must be placed on waivers. If he clears, he must then be offered back to the Blue Jays for $25,000.

"It's exciting," said Emaus, who worked out at second and third base Tuesday at the Mets' complex in Florida with Daniel Murphy and Luis Hernandez. "I was happy the Mets are giving me an opportunity to come over here and possibly showcase what I can do in spring training."

Emaus will compete with Justin Turner, Castillo and Murphy for the starting second base job, but he and Murphy easily could both be on the 25-man roster.

It's widely expected Oliver Perez (owed $12 million) and Castillo will be jettisoned before Opening Day. And because the righty-hitting Emaus can also play third base and because the lefty-hitting Murphy can also play first base, third base and even left field in a pinch, they could conceivably share time at second base.

Turner has a pair of minor league options remaining and can be sent to Triple-A Buffalo without passing through waivers, diminishing his chances.

Asked if ideally he would have one player start 140 to 150 games at second base, manager Terry Collins said "everybody would like to avoid" juggling players -- but that may not be practical.

"If Murph is healthy, we have to get that bat back in the lineup," Collins said. "Hopefully he'll be in that mix, either at second base or someplace else."

Collins' information on Emaus is mostly secondhand. Not only was Sandy Alderson's deputy, J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays' GM when Emaus was drafted in the 11th round in 2007 out of Tulane, but the Mets have added multiple scouts who formerly worked for Toronto as well.

"I got to know him a little bit in spring training," Emaus said about Ricciardi. "I was still young, coming up. He's always been very respectful. I've enjoyed playing under him."

What attracted the Mets to Emaus is his combination of power and plate discipline. After playing 38 games at Double-A New Hampshire, Emaus moved to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .298 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs in 309 at-bats. He also had 50 walks along with 50 strikeouts, giving him a .395 on-base percentage in the Pacific Coast League. For his minor league career, Emaus has nearly as many walks (212) as strikeouts (220).

"He fits into the whole scheme of the offensive players that the organization is looking for," Collins said. "Of course J.P. knew him from Toronto and really thought he's a baseball player. We got him because of our second base position, as a guy who can play second, but [Ricciardi] knows he can play third. And he's an offensive threat. The reports were outstanding on him, so we're going to give him a shot and see how he does."

What about parallels to Dan Uggla, another second baseman who originally was obtained by the Florida Marlins in the Rule 5 draft in December 2005 from the Arizona Diamondbacks? Well, perhaps in storyline they can be similar. But Uggla has averaged 153 strikeouts a season in the majors -- not quite Emaus' discipline.

"When they talked about [Emaus], they did not talk about that kind of power," Collins said, contrasting him with Uggla. "But they did talk about the fact he works the count, takes pitches, can hit the ball out of the ballpark, can drive in runs."

Said Emaus: "I honestly just try to get a good pitch to hit. The less you chase, the better pitches you'll get. Hopefully your production will increase because of it. I think it's just reps. I just started learning to hit pitches that I liked and it's kind of carried on ever since I was in high school or a little bit younger than that."

Emaus arrives in camp sharp, having played winter ball -- primarily third base -- in the Dominican Republic.

As for the Rule 5 draft, he was not surprised to be taken. Not that he was glued to the computer waiting for his name to be called.

"I knew that day was the Rule 5 draft, but I was asleep," Emaus said. "I had a call from my dad and my agent saying that the Mets had taken me -- and a couple of e-mails from the Mets' staff."