When just about every Major League caliber shortstop went down for the Mets last May, Omar Quintanilla proved to be a worthy replacement while they were all on the mend. First, it was Ruben Tejada going down with that pesky quad injury. Then, Ronny Cedeno suffered an injury to his left calf. That left Justin Turner, but he soon hit the disabled list with an ankle injury, leaving New York with only one option. That option was the man they call “Q.”
Never known as much of a hitter at the Major League level (.220/.279/.302 career MLB line), Wally Backman said Quintanilla was his most consistent player on both sides with Triple-A Buffalo before he made his way to Flushing. Despite a slump and lack of playing time toward the end of his time with New York, Quintanilla filled in admirably at shortstop, providing the solid defense up the middle, while hitting .257/.350/.371.
Feb 21, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla (3) poses for a picture during photo day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately for him, Jason Bay was ready to come off the disabled list, which created a roster crunch. To make room for the outfielder, Sandy Alderson sent Q to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations. It came out later that they would have preferred to hold onto him and push him through waivers, but the organization was afraid he would get claimed by another team and they wouldn’t be able to get anything in return.
Before getting started with their off-season plans, New York acquired Brandon Hicks from the Oakland Athletics in November and put him on the 40-man roster to have some depth up the middle. In January, New York decided to bring back Quintanilla on a minor league deal to continue building depth at the middle infield positions, in case Tejada or Daniel Murphy were dealt to acquire an outfielder. Since that didn’t happen, it appeared Hicks was the favorite to win a roster spot over Q because he’s right-handed and is already on the 40-man. However, their respective performances in camp thus far would prove otherwise.
It’s still early in Spring Training, but Hicks has proved to be a bit of a disappointment; not only is he currently sporting a less than impressive .077/.333/.308 line through 13 ABs, he’s also made three errors in 23 total chances in the field. On the other hand, things couldn’t be going better for Quintanilla, as he’s hitting .364/.553/.727 in 11 Abs to go with solid defense.
These are small sample sizes and there is plenty of baseball to be played before a decision has to be made by Terry Collins and company, but there is no reason so far as to why Quintanilla shouldn’t be awarded a roster spot on the Big League team as the back-up middle infielder over Hicks. It’s likely the Mets will give Hicks every opportunity to make the squad since he’s already on the 40-man, but at this point, I only see two things being his saving grace and keeping him in the conversation right now, which include: his right-handedness, and his ability to get on base this spring (5 BBs in 7 games played). However, as long as Justin Turner makes the squad, Q being a left-handed hitter shouldn’t be much of a problem.
There will be plenty of tough decisions for the Mets to make once camp starts coming to a close this month, and this will be one of them if Quintanilla continues to succeed in the chances he’s given. At this point, I’d prefer having Q on the bench because we know what he’s capable of, and he can come into a ballgame and provide solid defense without being an offensive liability. However, Hicks needs to get a fair shake; the Mets are still trying to get to know him as a player since they just acquired him this winter. He provides more power potential, so if he can get his fielding straightened out and make solid contact more consistently, I have a feeling he’ll end up with the Big League club next month.
Do you think Omar Quintanilla has a realistic shot at making the team out of Spring Training, or is Brandon Hicks pretty much a lock, no matter what?