John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Andres Gimenez ranged deep and far to his left, well into the outfield grass to field Gabriel Guerrero's hard-hit ground ball, and then with quick feet and a strong arm he made a difficult play look remarkably easy.
So much so that I felt compelled to text a scout who was at Friday's Mets-Marlins game in Port St. Lucie and ask for a comp:
"Who in the big leagues makes that play that easily?"
The answer came within minutes:
"Reminded me of Lindor. The agility. Smooth actions. Light on his feet."
That's high praise, obviously, comparing a 20-year old top prospect to Francisco Lindor, already a Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star at age 25.
Of course, nobody thinks Gimenez will hit 38 home runs any time soon, as Lindor did for the Indians last season, but scouts do believe the Mets' prospect will hit in the big leagues, which is why Baseball America ranks him 30th among all prospects going into 2019.
And maybe the lefty-swinging shortstop will hit with some pop too as he matures physically: he pulled a home run over the right-field fence on Friday.
All of which potentially could force the Mets to make a decision as early as next winter: Gimenez or Amed Rosario?
As something of a hedge, they had Gimenez play some second base in the Arizona Fall League, with the idea of perhaps pairing him up the middle with Rosario at some point - although right now he's regarded as the superior shortstop.
However, as proud as Robinson Cano is of his defense at second base, he'll probably fight to stay there for at least three of the remaining five years on his contract.
Meanwhile, Gimenez reached Double-A last season, playing 37 games for Binghamton, and could be ready to play regularly in the big leagues by 2020, at age 21.
So what would the Mets do then?
A lot depends on Rosario, clearly. He hasn't lived up to the hype that had him ranked as one of baseball's very best prospects a couple of years ago, but some of that is because he was so raw. And you started to see him make significant strides offensively over the last two months of last season, hitting .284 with a .318 on-base percentage in August and September.
Was that a sign of better things to come, going into his second full season? Or will a lack of plate discipline continue to limit him offensively?
Overall, Rosario hit .256 with a .295 on-base percentage and 43 extra-base hits, which added up to a .676 OPS. He walked only 29 times in 592 plate appearances.
Defensively, meanwhile, Rosario hasn't proven to be as good as expected either. Besides making 16 errors last season, he's not turning hits into outs with great range as advertised, and as a result he doesn't fare well with metrics - his -15 defensive runs saved last season ranked him second-worst in the majors.
Scouts see the tools to still improve significantly, but a handful I've talked to agree that Rosario's athleticism hasn't translated to shortstop play the way minor-league evaluators thought it would.
"He doesn't have advanced natural shortstop actions," is the way one scout puts it. "It's not always smooth."
Gimenez, by contrast, is quite smooth, as noted earlier. He did make an error in the game against the Marlins, fumbling a ground ball, but in addition to the play up the middle, he made a diving play toward the hole that he turned into an inning-ending force-out.
Ironically, Mickey Callaway, former Indians' pitching coach, invoked the name of Lindor as a comparison to Rosario last spring, though he said he meant it based mostly on their athleticism, not necessarily their baseball instincts.
So perhaps Lindor is indeed a better comparison to Gimenez, at least defensively.
In that case, the Venezuelan native could wind up bumping Rosario as the Mets' long-term answer at short. He has above-average speed, which translated to 38 stolen bases over 122 games split between Class-A Port St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, but perhaps more significantly, at age 19 last season he showed some extra-base power, with 29 doubles, five triples and six home runs.
"He's going to get stronger," a scout said. "He's still pretty lean but you can see he'll grow into that (5-11, 160 pounds) frame."
Perhaps the best scenario for the Mets, then, would be for Rosario to build off his late-season progress and take another step forward in 2019, making him valuable as a trade chip next winter if they decide Gimenez is ready.
For the moment, there's a consensus in the prospect rankings that indicates Gimenez has a bright future; in addition to the Baseball America No. 30 ranking, Baseball Prospectus ranks him at No. 38 and MLBPipeline.com has him at No. 58.
Then again, it was only two years ago that ESPN's Keith Law ranked Rosario as the No. 1 prospect and MLBPipeline.com had him at No. 2, so you never know.
For that matter, at age 23 Rosario is young enough that he could still live up to those glittering projections. But if not, it sure looks as if the Mets have an intriguing alternative.