Monday Mets: The Frugal Guillorme

While the Mets spent most of the postseason emphatically addressing most of the team’s burning questions, third base remained a mystery. Could the homegrown Luis Guillorme be the answer?

After the Mets obtained Trevor May, James McCann, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Carrasco, while missing out on George Springer and Trevor Bauer, greater attention was put on an issue at the hot corner. Aside from David Wright’s tenure, and a couple remarkable seasons from Howard Johnson, third base has always been something of a question mark for this franchise. So when the Mets made a greater effort to establish dependable pieces around the diamond this offseason, many wondered how they would solve third base. Would they trade for Cubs’ Kris Bryant? Would they sign Justin Turner? Could they somehow procure Matt Chapman from the A’s? Or would they proceed with the underrated bat and pretty accurately low-rated glove of JD Davis? In the end, they decided not to take a chance on Bryant (for now, at least), decided that Turner was likely past his best days and too often injured to add him, and the reported price tag for Chapman was understandably too high. That doesn’t mean they’ve automatically settled on Davis, though. To quote the wise sage, Yoda, “there is another.” And that other may be the least costly option around.

If all goes as planned, the 2021 Mets offense will be significantly better than it was last season. The additions of McCann and Lindor, combined with the anticipated resurgence of Pete Alonso, would indicate that this team should not have much of an issue scoring runs consistently. Probably. Then again, while the mantra in baseball has always been that “you can never have too much pitching” those who have followed the Mets over the years may have noticed that they often don’t have enough hitting, or at least enough timely hitting. So would it make sense to sacrifice some of that hitting in order to improve the defense?

When Luis Guillorme was drafted out of high school in the 10th round of the 2013 June Amateur Draft, it was not for his bat. Even back then he was described as a light-hitting infielder with a plus glove. For most of his pro career, he’s proven that simple scouting report to be pretty accurate. To be fair, Guillorme has been relatively successful at getting on base in the minors, but his consistently low slugging percentage is hard to ignore. The scouting report was not just right about his work with the bat; Guillorme’s smooth-handed reliability in the field has helped him move up in the world.

Guillorme made his major league debut in May of 2018, and played parts of that season, and the subsequent two seasons with the Mets. Last year’s small sample size of a season showed a somewhat different side of Guillorme, as he hit for a higher batting average (.333) and higher on base percentage (.426) than he had at any other point in his professional career. And, throughout this growth, his fielding hasn’t suffered.

JD Davis, is an interesting story as well. After a couple of awful cups of coffee (like 7-11 at 2am bad) with the Astros in 2017 and 2018, the Mets obtained Davis and watched him instantly blossom into a productive, studious hitter. Davis’ dedication to improving his value with the bat was a treat to watch and made it easy for fans to root for him. Last year he took something of a step back, but again, 2020 was the year of small-sample-size stats (amongst myriad more important things, obviously). And, even with that regression, he was still much better than he was in Houston. Still, in his two years with the Mets, Davis has played 87 games in left field and 65 games at third base, and has been remarkably unremarkable, at best, at both positions.

It’s been interesting to see how things have been playing out for these two. When the Mets were making upgrades, there was a sudden call by some to replace Davis with more of a sure thing. Even Mets team president, Sandy Alderson, refused to fully endorse Davis as the team’s third baseman of choice, declaring instead that he was the best option “for now”. Ouch.

In the meantime, while Davis’ ability with the bat and issues with the glove have both made appearances this spring, Guillorme has had a solid showing in Port St. Lucie so far, with 5 hits (albeit all singles) in 15 at-bats. He also had a remarkable 22-pitch walk yesterday (a 12-minute plate appearance). It’s rare that a spring training walk is noteworthy, and truthfully it doesn’t mean that much in the long run, still, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. The best part about it was the way the rest of the team enjoyed his battle with the Cardinals’ pitcher, Jordan Hicks. At the very least, or actually, at the very most, it shows that Guillorme has probably improved from his “light-hitting” considerations and has some skill with the bat.

While the new Mets executive staff appears to have made a more concerted effort to ensure this team has some depth on its bench, the starting lineup appears to be pretty consistent (barring injury). That said, it doesn’t mean that third base can’t be a game-by-game, pitching matchup, hot hand, type of decision. In other words, the Mets don’t actually need to name an official third baseman. Some of Mets pitchers will need the fielding more than others. Jacob deGrom may not need the Mets third baseman to be slick-fielding as much as he’ll need the offensive output, as the Mets inability to provide run support for him has gone from cringe-worthy to criminal. Meanwhile, Marcus Stroman is likely to induce more ground balls than the other Mets starting pitchers, and will therefore likely need to rely on his infielders’ abilities more than the others. Some pitchers have personal catchers, Stroman might end up with a personal third baseman.

Most importantly, perhaps, Guillorme’s ability to play the other infield positions will likely mean that he will not be an everyday starter at third base, and instead will provide him with plenty of opportunity to play regularly anyway.