It's assumed that Asdrubal Cabrera will be the starting second baseman for the Mets on Opening Day. However, with the way Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme have started the Grapefruit League season, Sandy Alderson might want to keep an open mind about his infield...
According to NY Post reporter Joel Sherman, scouts are taking notice of Guillorme, who is currently ranked as the organization's fifth-best position prospect.
In 11 at-bats this spring, Guillorme is batting .364 with a .429 OBP, one home run and five RBI. He's batting .296 with a .411 OBP in 54 spring at-bats during his career.
"Scouts like the lefty swinger's actions on both sides of the ball," according to Sherman.
Guillorme, 23, hit .283 with a .376 OBP and 21 extra base hits during 128 games in Double-A last year.
"He's not the quickest middle infielder, but his hands, reflexes and instincts are as good as anyone's in the Minors," MLB.com's minor-league expert Jim Callis recently wrote. "He has solid range and arm strength, and he would have led the Double-A Eastern League in fielding percentage at both second (.983) and short (.968) last year if he had played enough at either position to qualify."
I've written a lot about Guillorme's fielding, which is absolutely incredible. He has the quickest hands and best instincts of anyone I have seen up close in a long, long time. However, it turns out he's also a much better hitter than I was giving him credit for in the past. He has a very good eye, he's walking more often than he strikes out, and he makes strong contact while pulling the ball with authority.
In small talk with Mets insiders, I don't know if they are sold on him ever being an everyday infielder because he may always lack the punch needed to be more than just a two-bag hitter. That said, if he can continue to get work at second and third base, with his glove, instincts, personality, and selective eye, he'd be a fabulous utility infielder. I can see him getting 450 at-bats, playing three positions, never hurting a team at bat, and instantly upgrading the infield's defense whenever in the lineup.
In the event Cabrera is given the everyday gig, Guillorme would be a terrific asset behind him, on the bench and backing up other infield spots. I mean, if I'm pitching and up one run, there's no one I'd rather have standing over my left shoulder than Guillorme.
By the way, it's worth noting that Guillorme, Dominic Smith, and Amed Rosario have played a lot of baseball together during the last two years, so they know what to expect from one another when a ball is in play. It's a joy to watch them work together in the field because they operate in a fluid, familiar, fast, and effortless way. It's like watching three infielders on auto-pilot doing baseball performance art...
Meanwhile, Cecchini has also come to camp with a focus on making the Opening Day roster. He is currently considered the organization's 10th-best position prospect by MLB.com.
Frankly, I see Daniel Murphy whenever I watch Cecchini in St. Lucie. It's not that they look alike, it's that their hustle and results look a lot a like. Their stats and approach are very similar when compared to the same age. And, like Murphy, Cecchini does everything with equal parts fun and intensity. They have a similar love for the game, for winning, for working hard and for tinkering to find perfection.
I'm not convinced Cecchini is a future MVP candidate, or even capable of hitting .330, but (like Murphy at 24 years old) he does make strong, consistent contact with the barrel of the bat. He doesn't strike out much, but he also doesn't draw a lot of walks, which is why batting average (like Murphy) will be a major factor in Cecchini getting people's attention. Murphy didn't begin making headlines until he and hitting coach Kevin Long altered his launch angle and swing and Murphy began crushing home runs.
Cecchini is clearly reading from the same book because he told reporters this past weekend that he spent his offseason working on his swing, while practicing new positions in the field.
Like Murphy, Cecchini is focused on the angle of his swing, his hand rhythm, and staying behind the ball in order to maximize his efforts with the bat.
"It's more of trying to make sure you're getting underneath the ball a little bit more," manager Mickey Callaway recently said of Cecchini's swing. "He's a good ballplayer. Obviously showing a little bit more power this spring training than probably we've seen in the past."
Cecchini hit .267 with a .329 OBP in 110 games with Triple-A Las Vegas last season. However, he hit just .208 during sporadic play for the Mets toward the end of the season.
I appreciate that he's also trying to learn different positions. However, it's become quite clear that Cecchini is only a second baseman. He can field shortstop and third base, but his home should always be on the right side of the infield because of his arm strength.
"Cecchini is never going to be the kind of player who wows with flashy tools," MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo wrote this past winter. "He's more the type that you grow to appreciate after multiple viewings."
I see him the same way, and apparently so do the Mets. Other organizations say the Mets speak of Cecchini as being capable of handing second base for them on a regular basis, so I do think it's possible he could be rewarded the job some day.
The thing is, with Jose Reyes, Guillorme and Cabrera in the mix, I can't see how it shakes out in his favor this season because he doesn't do any one thing great. He's really good across the board, but will probably always lose out to someone for something. He's 24 years old, though, so there's time to let things play out...
It's also worth noting that former Mets 2B Neil Walker, who is a career .272 hitter, remains available on the lingering free-agent market.
Walker, 32, hit .275 with a .344 OBP and 3.4 WAR in 186 games with the Mets in 2016 and 2017 before being traded to the Brewers last summer.
According to NBCSports.com's D.J. Short, in 2017, Walker had a better wRC+ than Ian Happ, Robinson Cano, Cesar Hernandez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Whit Merrifield, Josh Harrison, Dustin Pedroia, Javier Baez, DJ LeMahieu, and Brandon Drury.
Nevertheless, despite multiple teams reportedly having interest in him, including the Mets, Walker has so far only been offered a minor-league deal from the Royals.
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!