DENVER — The Mets have brought three-quarters of their foreboding offense to the major leagues this season, but what’s missing?
Francisco Alvarez and Brett Batty have contributed significantly to the club since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, while Mark Vientos has made a positive impact on the Mets in limited playing time. Exhibition D is Ronnie Mauricio, who continues to play an active role in Syracuse.
Mauricio hit .348/.384/.586 on Friday with seven homers, 33 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
The team moved the 22-year-old from shortstop to second base last month, putting him in a better position to help the Mets this season.
Francisco Lindor is the established shortstop for now, but if Mauricio is deemed a fit second baseman, Jeff McNeil could move to the outfield almost full-time.
“[Mauricio] We’re working on controlling the strike zone,” said Kevin Howard, Mets director of player development. “He continues to show power, he continues to show amazing contact ability. He’s working on his ability to swing on strike and receive the ball, something he wanted to improve.”
Before the Mets faced the Rockies on Friday, manager Buck Showalter said Mauricio’s efforts to improve his second base defense were outstanding. Mauricio has appeared in 24 games at the position as second baseman, coming out on Friday with six errors.
He appeared in 20 games as a shortstop and committed five errors.
“I like the fact that he’s working hard,” Showalter said of Mauricio’s defense. “I think everyone is really patient with some new things thrown at him. But he’s a quick learner. He’ll figure it out. By the way, I think he’s going to be a good defender.”
The bigger issue at this point may be fitting Mauricio into a roster that is mostly made up of veterans who have signed up to this season.
The group includes Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha and Tommy Pham. Promotion of Mauricio would probably require removing one player from that group, potentially reducing minutes for the rest of the tier.
After a strong season with the Mets last year, Caña struggled and saw minutes drop. With Mauricio’s promotion, McNeill could be entrenched in left field, further reducing his minutes.
“Don’t worry about it,” Caña said when asked if he could lose more minutes if Mauricio gets promoted. “I’m focused on going out and playing when called. It’s out of my control and nothing to worry about.”
Mauricio impressed team officials with his power of 4 home runs in 33 at-bats in spring training.
“I don’t think any of us were surprised,” Howard said. “He was so young on all levels that it’s easy to forget how talented he is, but we’ve been watching him for the last three or four years below the average age level. I knew he had this,” he said, once he gets the chance, he’ll be a great big leaguer for a long time. ”
According to Howard, the Mets may eventually aim to give Mauricio an outfield hit and keep McNeil at second base, but even if that happens, it won’t happen anytime soon.
“I think the focus is on second base right now,” Howard said. “Do as well as you can at second base. I think they’ve been put off in a way.”