MLB.com currently considers 19-year-old Mets minor-leaguer Ronny Mauricio to be their third-best prospect, slotting just behind 20-year-old shortstop Andres Gimenez.
Last week, Mauricio cracked MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect List for the first time during his brief career, though it's worth noting they ranked him at exactly 100.
In either case, the hype train beneath Mauricio is gaining momentum, and I predict by the end of this summer, he and Gimenez will both be talked about the same way we pumped up Amed Rosario in 2016.
In spring training, I talked with a few talent evaluators (one with the Mets, two with other NL organizations), all of whom watched Mauricio in rookie ball the previous summer. They had yet to set eyes on him in 2019.
They all described him to me in much the same way, saying he's tall, wirey, athletic and looking a lot like a young Alfonso Soriano, who early in his career was similarly unbridled, all-arms, all-legs, had an effectively-wild swing and swagger. He also takes a quick, wrist-heavy slice at the ball that is beautiful to see in motion.
In my view, he's more stable and compact when hitting from the left-side of the plate, but his power mostly comes when hitting from the opposite side. He sees the ball exceptionally well. His swing-and-miss rate is low, but this should not be surprising given his skilled eye and facing immature, low-level pitching. My hunch is he'll strike out more against advanced arms because, like Soriano, Mauricio's back leg often collapses which makes him susceptible to off-speed pitches down and in.
In the field, scouts say he has very good instincts, tending to set up in the right spot before the ball is hit. He doesn't show a lot of quickness going left, right or charging on a weak ground ball. However, he makes up for it with soft hands, a lightening quick transfer and a good arm. He performs this way now, but as he grows up and adds muscle, I bet he and the Mets find it difficult to keep him at shortstop, especially if Gimenez or Amed Rosario are already at the position. My bet is he ends up an outfielder, but time will tell...
The only scout I know that has watched him this season disagrees with my Soriano comparison. He sees what I see, but instead is reminded more of a young Hanley Ramirez. I'd gladly take either for Mauricio's career.
"At this stage, when we're talking evaluating teenagers, I look for build, frame, coordination, grace, how kids carry themselves, things that can't be taught, but all of which are needed as the foundation to build a real baseball career," a veteran NL scout told me. "Mauricio checks all of those boxes for me, and he's already showing the physical talent is there, as well."
The Mets gave a $2.1 million bonus in 2017 to ink Mauricio when he was an international free agent and just 16 years old. At the time, MLB.com ranked him the 10th-best available International Prospect.
He started his professional career with a 20-game hitting streak in 2018, finishing that season hitting .273 with a .304 OBP and 22 extra-base hits in rookie ball.
This year, playing in the full-season Sally League, Mauricio is batting .313 with four extra-base hits in 20 games. The buzz from the team's minor-league headquarters in St. Lucie is Mauricio should advance to Single-A Brooklyn before the end of this season, meaning he'll be aiming for Double-A in 2020.
However, once he fills out a tad, gets to Double A and starts putting the ball over the fence, fans will be clamoring for him to be called up to the Mets, who will simultaneously find him being asked about in every trade being considered by Brodie Van Wagenen.
In fact, in trade talks with teams this past winter, specifically the Marlins, the Mets were often asked about Mauricio despite him being a teenager and having never played above rookie ball. So, it's not like he's currently an unknown. He's in the Top 100, he's Van Wagenen's second-best prospect, and the sky is still very much the limit. It's only going to go up as the young man develops...
"He has an advanced feel for the game. We have kids getting to the major leagues that don't have his timing," a rival NL executive told me earlier this week. "He's not going to be a shortstop when he gets to the big leagues. I know what he is now, but when he's making a name for himself against us in five years he'll be doing it as a power-hitting outfielder. Mark it down."
I will gladly mark it down, and I'd gladly take the second coming of Soriano or Hanley, be it at shortstop, third base or one of three outfield positions. However, that's a long, long way from now.
In the meantime, I'll be watching his strength, size, attitude and how he adapts when moving up the ranks. If he jumps those hurdles, look out, because we're going to have another potential star on our hands.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!