The infamous shave might have gotten New York Mets infielder Luis Guillorme off his early season slump. Entering action on April 19 hitless in 12 at-bats, Guillorme decided to shave his beard. He simultaneously started to hit, and hasn’t stopped hitting since, batting .415 in 53 at-bats, and has reached base in each of the last 17 games in which he had at least one plate appearance.
As Guillorme has started to hit, he is now forcing his way into the everyday lineup for both his offense, and his defense as an interchangeable infielder. On a fully healthy cast of position players (sans James McCann), and with a roster in which he started the season as a bench player, how should the Mets manage him?
Nobody on the Mets is taking much playing time away from Guillorme right now.
Guillorme enters tonight’s action batting .362 against righties (best on the team) and .278 against lefties (only Brandon Nimmo has better success against southpaws). His overall average is .338 with a .411 on-base percentage and is playing the best baseball of his five-year career right now.
A residue of strong roster design is that everyone on the roster is contributing in some fashion throughout the whole season. Guillorme has been thriving as the seventh or eighth place batter in the lineup and he serves to extend the lineup and keep it cyclical such that the top of the lineup has some form of baserunners to work with.
Guillorme has been better known for his infield defense, although his surprising success at the plate has taken over relevant headlines for the 27-year old. He has been dynamite as a defender, committing just one error in 77 chances between second base, shortstop, and third base. It is part of why the Mets have the second best team fielding percentage in the majors.
Guillorme’s hitting success is part of the great culture that the Mets have right now.
Guillorme’s success is a good thing because in a season with a compressed schedule due to the lockout, it enables teammates to stay fresh for the grind of 162 games. His success also plays into the question of how to balance the playing times of Guillorme, Eduardo Escobar, and Jeff McNeil around their $341 million shortstop in Francisco Lindor.
McNeil played left field last week while Starling Marte was away on family emergency, and that allowed Guillorme to get some starts and elevate his value on the team.
Guillorme's offense is needed right now, with Eduardo Escobar’s struggles at the dish and on the field recently (batting .209 for the season and committed three errors last week). The Mets had a similar mojo like this when they won the World Series in 1969. Having Guillorme play can spell someone either into a designated hitter or as a potential substitute player.
The beauty and genius of the 1969 championship season was that the position players weren’t asked to play every day, and they gave substitute players a chance to start games while giving their starters an occasional day off to stay in shape for the stretch run. Gil Hodges recognized that as a players’ coach and manager and knew his strategy of keeping everyone healthy would play off. The Mets went 38-11 in their final 49 games that season on their way to their first championship because they were in shape to play hard.
Buck Showalter has a roster full of versatile position players to work around this time, considering Guillorme, McNeil, and Escobar can play multiple positions, allowing him to structure his lineup in a ot of different fashions, especially given the universal designated hitter rule, which the Mets have benefitted from more than any other team in the league.
Fans should be pleasantly shocked if Guillorme’s overall averages stay where they are right now, but this is a dangerous bat in a close situation if it gets that far.