Luisangel Acuña makes strong Mets impression alongside Francisco Lindor

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – All eyes are on Luis Angel Acuña with several openings scheduled.

Before Monday’s game, special assistant Carlos Beltran spoke with the young infielder and walked with him for a few minutes until Beltran watched Acuña batting practice.

Then, the younger brother of Braves superstar Ronald Aquana Jr. stepped into second base in his first start of the Grapefruit League season, and the players who will fill three-quarters of the Mets’ starting infield (starting with Pete Alonso) , Brett Batty). Third baseman, Francisco Lindor is shortstop).

Acuña and Lindor, in particular, have been talking a lot in recent days, and the current and future Mets shortstop is looking for a potential double play partner in the future.

Acuña said Lindor preaches about taking care of one’s body.

Coach Carlos Mendoza intentionally paired the two as central defenders, saying, “It’s important that they form a connection, not only off the field, but on the field as well.”

C.J. Abrams of the Nationals stole a base and was given a second base safety while Mets second baseman Luis Angel Acuña, 73, was handling a throw in the bottom of the third inning of a spring training baseball game. AP

And in Acuña’s first at-bat, he caught Mendoza’s eye. First impressions of Acuña’s first start to the exhibition season were strong.

The prospect easily handled a few ground balls and lined up a pair of reverse hits into the right field seats as part of a 2-for-3 afternoon of action.

It wasn’t the hits that impressed the manager, but Acuña’s behavior at the plate.

“I went down 0-2 in my first at-bat, but then I got back in the count,” Mendoza said after a 6-3 win over the Nationals at CACTI Park in Palm Beach. “He showed some really good takes on some difficult pitches. It was immediate for me. I said something in the dugout, like, ‘Okay, that looks good there.’ It was something.

Luis Angel Acuña of the Mets hits a single in the bottom of the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals.
Luis Angel Acuña of the Mets hits a single in the bottom of the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals. AP

“It was good to see that fastball go the other way with a count of 2-2. That’s what I want to see from these young players.”

Acuna, who was a gem back in the Max Scherzer trade last year, finished the 2023 season at Double-A Binghamton.

In 121 games with both the Rangers and Mets, the Venezuelan batted .294 with a .769 OPS, along with nine home runs and 52 stolen bases.

At 5 feet 8 inches tall, Acuña has speed and sure hands.

He primarily played shortstop throughout his minor league career, a position Lindor took at the major league level.

So a move to second base, a position Acuña said he’s “very, very comfortable in,” could be a look ahead, whether that means late 2024 or 2025.

“He looks good around the bases, his footwork, the way he converts into double plays,” Mendoza said. “He’s obviously going to play second base, but he’s pretty comfortable at second base even though he’s closer to his natural shortstop.”

Lindor told Acuña to try to slow down the pace of the game, which can be difficult, especially for young players. Acuña didn’t seem overwhelmed by his first real shot of the spring.

“Young players want to do things quickly. But it’s all about adjustments,” Acuña said through translator (and infield coordinator) Luis Rivera.