When the Mets take the field for 2011, not many people expect much success. Is anyone predicting a division title or a wild card berth? Probably not, but fans are watching specific areas of the team in hopes of seeing improvement.
One of those areas is second base.
Fans desperately want to see Luis Castillo as far away from the position as possible, if not off the team altogether.
Castillo is entering the final season of the four-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Mets in 2007 and is due $6 million next season.
Mets fans are almost venomous in their hatred of Castillo, who played in just 86 games last season and hit only .235.
But as spring training inches closer and closer, the Mets have a few different options at second base. There is a lot of competition, something Mets fans might actually enjoy watching.
The main candidates for the second base job next season are Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Brad Emaus. All three are currently playing in the winter league and have been impressive thus far.
Daniel Murphy is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League. He is hitting .320 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 103 at-bats. He has struck out just 11 times and has an OBP of .395. Murphy has vowed to manager Terry Collins that he will make the team's Opening Day roster is any capacity, even as a bench player.
Who will be the Mets' Opening Day second baseman?
Despite his shortcomings in the past, you have to admire Murphy's heart and determination. Those qualities are something many Mets players lack.
Justin Turner, 26, was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles in May. He is currently hitting .308 with one homer and eight RBIs in just 65 at-bats. He has also scored 11 runs in 16 games for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, coached by the Mets' new bench coach, Ken Oberkfell.
Brad Emaus, 24, taken by the Mets in the rule-5 draft last Thursday, is batting just .263 but has four home runs and 17 RBIs in 114 at-bats for Toros del Este in the Dominican Republic. While splitting time between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas, Emaus hit .290 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs and an OBP of .397.
The Mets' second base competition is fairly wide open. Emaus must be kept on the Mets' 25-man roster for the entire season or else he must be placed on waivers, and if he clears, be offered back to the Blue Jays for $25,000.
If anyone beats Castillo out for the starting second base position, it's unclear what the Mets would do with Castillo. Since they have to carry Emaus and would be reluctant to waste a bench position on Castillo, it's likely he would be released and the Mets would eat that $6 million.
Castillo will be given a chance, there is no doubt about that. But he's got a lot of hungrier, younger contenders waiting to take his spot. God willing, the Mets will finally have a solid second baseman for a few years.