Gritty and oftentimes forgotten Luis Guillorme deserves his long-awaited shot with the New York Mets during the 2020 season.
It’s no secret that the New York Mets have a few too many infielders. Pete Alonso shouldn’t budge from first any time soon, and the Mets probably aren’t willing to sit Robinson Cano and his $20 million annual salary on the bench.
Meanwhile, Amed Rosario is still establishing himself at shortstop. Three other starting-caliber infielders on the Mets’ roster — Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Jed Lowrie — will either play out of position, platoon or not play much.
Unfortunately for new first-year manager Carlos Beltran, finding playing time for his glut of infielders will be even more complicated than it seems. Because, in addition to navigating injury problems, slumps and aging players, if Beltran wants to maximize his roster’s output, he’ll need to find playing time for Luis Guillorme.
It might seem like there’s simply no time or space for Guillorme to get a legitimate shot. But Luis Guillorme has genuine potential, and if he’s just sitting on the bench as a utility man and occasional pinch-hitter, he won’t be helping anyone.
Unfortunately, Guillorme hasn’t taken enough at-bats or fielding chances at the major-league level to yield meaningful statistics. But anecdotal evidence suggests that given the chance, Guillorme could be, at the very least, a strong everyday player.
For one, there’s his defense, which has always been highly touted. Guillorme was named to the 2018 MLB Pipeline All-Defense team. “He’s not the quickest middle infielder, but his hands, reflexes and instincts are as good as anyone’s in the Minors,” wrote Jim Callis.
Meanwhile, according to his 2018 Baseball Prospectus scouting report, “given the chance to play a full season in the majors in the next three or four years, Guillorme could be a Gold Glove shortstop.” Of course, he’ll play second base rather than shortstop, but his defense will still shine. “His fluid motion and soft and outrageously quick hands make him a plus shortstop and if needed an elite second baseman,” wrote Tyler Oringer for BP.
Of course, Guillorme’s defense has never been his main problem. Rather, it’s always been an open question whether he’ll hit enough to make it as a big-league player. But while Guillorme looked like little more than a defensive replacement in 2018, he made major improvements on offense last year. In 45 games, he hit .246/.324/.361, certainly not spectacular, but not untenable given his defensive potential.
Guillorme was even more impressive in the second half of 2019. In 30 games in the second half, he hit .300/.391/.475, good for an .866 OPS. To be sure, his second half was only a 40 at-bat sample, and his .344 BABIP during the stretch probably inflated his offensive numbers. But at the very least, Guillorme showed that he’s more than a pure defensive player.
And it’s not like his offensive improvement came out of nowhere. Guillorme is a career .289/.368/.350 hitter in the minor leagues. In 2015, in a 122-game season at Class-A Savannah, he hit .318/.391/.354. Two years later at Double-A Binghamton, he hit .283/.376/.331. In 69 games at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2018 — granted, a hitter’s environment — he hit .304/.380/.417. Finally, last season, Guillorme appeared in 69 games for Triple-A Syracuse. He slashed .307/.412/.452.
Guillorme’s offense hasn’t been mentioned enough. But he’s hit .305/.396/.434 at Triple-A the last two seasons, and improved even after leaving the hitter’s paradise of Las Vegas. At first, Guillorme looked like a pure singles hitter, which still might have worked out with his defensive abilities. Now, though, he’s put up an .830 OPS in his last two seasons at Triple-A, and improved from one year to the next.
Guillorme might never put everything together and translate his potential into big-league success. But he has so much potential that the Mets need to give him a chance. Jed Lowrie will probably leave Queens after 2020. Robinson Cano is 37 and not getting any younger. Meanwhile, Luis Guillorme is under team control until 2026. As one second baseman plays the last year of his contract and another continues aging rapidly, the Mets have a young, affordable defensive standout, who seems to be developing on offense as well, sitting on their bench.
Of course, the best solution might be to trade Guillorme. But he won’t bring back anything of value unless he gets an extended showcase in the lineup. If Guillorme plays and does well, that’s fantastic. The Mets will have a new starting-caliber infielder, and they can choose whether to play him or trade him. If he falters, that’s fine too. The Mets have so many infielders that he doesn’t have to play at all if he can’t perform at a major-league level.
The one thing he shouldn’t do is sit on the bench, glove wasted and developing bat stifled. At the very least, Guillorme deserves a chance. And we’ve seen his fielding percentage. When Luis Guillorme gets a chance, he doesn’t often miss it.