Entering this offseason as an afterthought, Luis Guillorme could receive playing time as a valuable backup infielder and for the 2021 New York Mets.
At the start of the offseason, Luis Guillorme felt like an afterthought for the New York Mets. Even as the Mets shuffled and rotated through several options in their infield, it was Guillorme that found himself on the bench, or worse, sitting in New York’s Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Mets, waiting for his chance.
Even then, it was tough to see Guillorme getting a true chance with the players ahead of him. Jeff McNeil solidified himself as a versatile infielder, JD Davis was entrenched at third base, Andrés Giménez was a top prospect who shined within his first 132 at-bats as a rookie and flashed elite shortstop play and Amed Rosario, once the number one prospect in baseball, scuffled as a pro, and was slated to play multiple positions around the diamond heading in 2021.
It’s funny how time and a few trades can change things for players up and down the roster.
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With the acquisition of Francisco Lindor to the Mets in a six-player trade, New York added a superstar, but in the same trade, sent out Giménez and Rosario, two players projected to get valuable playing time for the Mets. Lindor will start at shortstop, but that move opened up a bit more playing time for Guillorme.
In his career, Guillorme has just 110 career games and 212 plate appearances. With a chance to solidify his position as the teams’ backup infielder, it starts with his defensive value.
Lauded as a high-level defensive shortstop when he was drafted, Guillorme has largely maintained his defensive value, which allows him to play multiple positions in the infield. In the 2020 season, Guillorme shared time at shortstop, second base, and third base.
Though the sample is small, Guillorme held his own defensively around the diamond. Via Fangraphs, Guillorme played 102 innings at second and 30 innings at third defensively for the Mets this past season, finishing with a defensive run saved tally (DRS) of 0 in both areas.
That defensive flexibility is critical when you view the starters on the roster. McNeil has hit well early in his career but never got comfortable at any defensive position. With Robinson Cano out, McNeil is penciled in at second base. Davis is slotted at third base but is a poor defender, sporting a -8 in 2020 and -9 in 2019.
Where Guillorme will have to improve is with the bat – Can Guillorme play somewhere between his 2019 and 2020 performances?
In 2019, Guillorme finished with a stat line of .246/.324/.361 with weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 87 in 70 plate appearances. In 2020, those numbers jumped to .333/.426/.439 and a wRC+ of 144 in 68 plate appearances, albeit with a .463 BABIP. The ultimate question for Guillorme is can he find himself as an average hitter, somewhere around a wRC+ of 100, over a larger set of games?
It remains to be seen, even in the underlying numbers. Last season, Guillorme had a sweet spot percentage of 46.3% and an exit velocity of 89.8, via Baseball Savant, both above average. The problem is he wasn’t producing good contacts, with just 1 barrel on the season and a hard-hit percentage of 31.7% He also sported a strikeout percentage of 25 percent, up from the 20 percent the season before.
In short, Guillorme is striking out a ton, while not exactly creating hard hits when he does make contact.
Perhaps finding the success of 2019 by putting the ball into the air a bit more can help. Last season, Guillorme had an average launch angle of 10.7, a fair drop from the 16.8 he sported in 2019. Despite questions about the hit tool, his pitch recognition works well, as Guillorme has maintained a walk rate between nine and 12 percent for much of his career and walked in 14.7% of his plate appearances last season.
Will Guilliorme get the chance to prove his value this season?
It would be wise for the Mets to see what Guillorme could do over a larger amount of plate appearances. With the now loaded offensive talent, placing Guillorme at the bottom of the order and giving him the experience against major league pitching could work. With five years of control left, giving him the chance to serve as this team’s Tommy La Stella could be beneficial.
But the Mets are also at a point where they’re looking to contend, not just in the National League East, but for the National League pennant. Therefore, any small blemish that can be fixed, will be fixed. If Guillorme struggles at the plate and only offers a glove-first backup, the Mets could be inclined to add a backup infielder with a bit more pop – think La Stella, Jonathan Villar, or Hasner Alberto.
After cups of coffee in the major leagues, Luis Guillorme could finally solidify himself as a major league player as a decent backup option for the Mets. His defense in the infield, the same tool that got him drafted out of high school in 2013, has brought him to this point and will be valuable as the Mets deal with questionable defenders at second and third base in Jeff McNeil and JD Davis.
However, the question mark will be how much offensive value he will provide. Guillorme can draw a walk and get on base, two attributes that were liked under the previous Sandy Alderson regime, but his ballooning strikeout rate and lackluster contact when he does hit the ball could be a concern as the Mets view themselves as a contending team.
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Heading into the 2021 season, Guillorme currently projects as an infield backup who can help the team but will have to show a bit more with the bat, or risk being left behind as the Mets look to claim the National League.