It’s still early, but Lucas May is emerging as a leading candidate to win the Brad Emaus Award and graduate from a number in the 60s to something resembling a big-league uniform when training camp breaks. You may recall Emaus last year arrived in camp wearing No. 68 and left wearning No. 4. (Then busted and was subsequently sent away, but that’s another story).
May, whom the Mets acquired as a minor league free agent this offseason, so far in his career had but a cup of joe in Kansas City two years ago and previously toiled as a minor leaguer with the Dodgers, who drafted him as an infielder in 2003, and more recently, the Diamondbacks. Among catchers competing for a reserve job in Mets camp this year, the right-handed hitting May is perhaps the best offensive threat among them, a skill he showed this afternoon with a ringing two-run double off the Marlins’ Carlos Zambrano. Young incumbent Mike Nickeas and veteran Rob Johnson, also right-handed, are considered defensive specialists and could have an edge considering weak gloves at several other positions including the presumed No. 1 catcher (Josh Thole) as well as a thin pitching staff that could use any edge it can get. Vinny Rottino can hit, alledgedly, but he’s more of a utility cornerman who packs a catcher’s mitt in case of emergency. If Rottino makes the team, it’s unlikely to be at the expense of the any of the aforementioned candidates.
In May’s favor currently is the well-being of Scott Hairston, the only other right-handed bench candidate who can hit a little (Justin Turner a little too, but I don’t see how he fits in unless injuries strike Wright, Davis or Murphy). May’s current number assignment is 62 although 16 (Johnson’s assignment), 33 (Rottino’s) and the vacant 1 and 9 would look to be decent landing points from this distance.
The Hairston injury (and Andres Torres’ soreness, you never know with these 30-somethings) may well also affect the outfield makeup too. It certainly looks better today than yesterday that Adam Loewen and/or Mike Baxter make the squad, and then there’s the specter of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the young outfielder the Mets hope they won’t need so soon. Should he make the club, the Emaus Award is all his. He’s wearing No. 72.