Those winter workout sessions should come in handy for the 24-year-old Emaus as he looks to capitalize on his most significant opportunity in professional baseball. Rather than idle away another season in Toronto's farm system, where he has already proven mostly everything he can, Emaus now has a chance to become the starting second baseman for the Mets.
2010 Spring Training - null
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"At this point in his career, he's probably ready to play in the big leagues," said Mets special assistant to the general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who drafted Emaus out of college when he was general manager of the Blue Jays. "He's played in A-ball, he's played in Double-A, he's played in Triple-A. He's taken all the steps."
To take the final step, however, Emaus must beat out a 15-year veteran in Castillo, a hard-working organizational favorite in Murphy and an overachieving (and affable) challenger in Justin Turner -- heady competition for someone whose greatest asset is perhaps his lack of a weakness. Emaus doesn't possess much speed, doesn't hit for exceptional power or average, doesn't boast a terribly strong arm, doesn't own a particularly slick glove. But the total package he provides is more well-rounded than the defensive-minded Castillo or the offensive-centric Murphy.
"He's a baseball player," Ricciardi said, meaning it not necessarily in the obvious sense. "I'm partial to those kinds of guys -- the guys that can actually play the game. He's a guy that would fly under the radar in a lot of cases, because he's not flashy in the things that he does. He's just very fundamentally sound as far as staying within himself and just being a baseball player."
Also working in Emaus' favor is his status as a Rule 5 Draft pick, in large part a product of Ricciardi's scouting assessment. If Emaus does not break camp with the club (or is demoted at any point during the season), rules stipulate that the Mets must offer him back to the Blue Jays for a nominal fee. It is the same rule that forced the Mets to offer successful reliever Darren O'Day back to the Angels in 2009, despite his strong spring with the Mets.
Emaus would like to avoid a similar fate.
Unlike other Rule 5 picks, who often express surprise, shock or even disappointment upon their selection, Emaus was thrilled from the moment he learned the Mets had taken him in the first round in December. Fresh off a season in which he hit .290 with 15 homers split between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas, Emaus headed to winter ball in the Dominican to begin preparing for the competition.
"I've worked hard on my overall game," he said. "I think my defense is improving. I feel pretty strong with my glove, and I've always enjoyed my approach to the plate. It's all starting to come together now."
Like Murphy, the most significant issue with Emaus is indeed that defense -- an obstacle both Ricciardi and manager Terry Collins feel he can overcome.
"I think he's got good enough footwork to play second base," Collins said, before admitting the truth of the matter: "He's here because the people that have scouted him have said he can hit, and he can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
If Simran and those DVDs helped his power this winter, all the better for a man who needs to prove he is a better hitter than Murphy, a comparable fielder to Castillo and a superior all-around player than Turner.
All the better, that is, for a man who needs to prove his worth quickly.
"I wouldn't say it's intimidating," Emaus said. "Obviously I respect Luis -- he has had a great career and is still having a great career. Murph and I have been down here for about three weeks now, so I've gotten to know him, he's a great guy. It's a friendly competition. We're still teammates regardless. You want others to succeed as well as yourself."