A preview of the 2008 Mets, presented in the expected batting order, followed by pitching rotation, followed by impact bullpen/bench players. Today we focus on second baseman Luis Castillo.
2007 (with Mets - 50 games): .296 avg, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 37 runs, 10 SB, .371 OBP
Until the Mets traded for Johan Santana, I would argue the best thing they did this off-season was lock up Luis Castillo. He's a sure/shore thing - he'll shore up the second base position, and he's pretty much a sure bet to hit .300.
Second base has not been a position of strength for the Mets in quite some time - probably since Edgardo Alfonzo was in his prime. With the current crop of Mets, Jose Valentin was the next option, and he's a big dropoff from Castillo - 2006 was the best year Valentin will ever have, and the 45 strikeouts Castillo had all of last year are about a month's work for Valentin in one of his usual years.
I think the presence of Castillo will help make Jose Reyes a better hitter, too. Castillo has such a good approach at the plate, and is the perfect number two hitter. He'll drop down a perfect bunt when that is called for, go the other way in the right situation, and he's smart running the bases, too. He was also one of the few Mets who maintained a high level of performance through September (.404 OBP, 31 hits, 6 doubles, 2 triples) when everyone else was contributing to the collapse. I distinctly remember breathing a sigh of relief whenever Castillo came to the plate, because he always came through. How does that benefit Reyes? He's someone Reyes can continue to learn a positive approach from, and he'll allow Reyes the opportunity to steal a base, then bunt him to third so he can score a run.
Castillo and Reyes up the middle, with Beltran in center, give the Mets one of the best defensive 'up the middles' in baseball. Sure, he's on the wrong side of 30, and he's a bit banged up, but the guy knows how to hit, and he's still one of the best second basemen in the game - or, at least, in the National League. He makes the Mets better. I don't know that there's much more to say about him than that.