The New York Mets currently boast one of the most star studded rosters in all of baseball. From Jacob deGrom to Francisco Lindor, plenty of household names appear in their core lineup. But what about the other guys? The one’s who are just getting their major league careers started and haven’t yet made their mark on baseball history. It just so happens that the Mets have a number of young breakout candidates who look primed to finally make a name for themselves in 2021.
A Bat to Match the Glove
Starting off with the most well know of the bunch, Luis Guillorme already has a small reputation with the Mets. An infield utility player, Guillorme has spent the last three seasons filling in at second base, shortstop and third base. Though he’s flashed a lot of talent with the glove, the one thing he hasn’t really proved yet is that he can be a reliable major league hitter.
Slashing .259/.343/.341 with a 90 OPS+ and just one home run, Guillorme hasn’t done all that much offensively. That said, the reason why he’s a breakout candidate is because of his 2020 season in particular. Though it was only in 68 plate appearances, Guillorme slashed .333/.426/.439 with a 141 OPS+. While an absurd .463 BABIP greatly inflated these numbers (and masked a slight increase in strikeout rate), there are reasons to believe that he may have taken at least somewhat of a leap forward.
In terms of hard contact, he set career highs in average exit velocity (89.8 mph) and hard hit rate (31.7%). Again, small sample size, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. Combine this with his natural skills as a slap hitter (76.8% chase contact rate) who thrives going to the opposite field (43.5% Oppo%) and Guillorme can be one tough out. If the new power is here to stay, he could become one of the single best utility players in baseball.
Return to Form
After trading Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies for Franklyn Kilome, the Mets had high hopes for the hard throwing righty. Regularly hitting 97 mph with his four-seamer, Kilome was dominating the minor leagues. Unfortunately, his promising career came to a halt in 2019 when he underwent Tommy John Surgery. Jump ahead to his major league debut in August of 2020 and it’s clear that something wasn’t quite right.
While Kilome has struggled with control issues throughout his career (walk rate just under 4 BB/9), this problem exploded in 2020. Through 11.1 innings, Kilome walked nine batters and gave up 14 hits, including five home runs. With a weakened 93-mph fastball and a curveball with a mind of its own, Kilome’s first stint in the majors didn’t go well.
So why is he a breakout candidate? First, there was one good thing to come out of his 2020 season: strikeouts. Once a middling strikeout threat, Kilome suddenly found himself with 13 punch outs in 11.1 innings last year. Even with his diminished velocity and command issues, he was still mowing down batters at an elite rate.
Furthermore, 2020 was Kilome’s first season back since undergoing TJS. To be rushed to the majors like that, especially as a 25-year-old who never pitched in AAA and had minimal time to stretch out due to not having a minor league season, it’s obvious he simply wasn’t ready yet. Now, with an extra year of recovery and an actual spring training, Kilome looks to show the Mets that he can still be the pitcher he once was. While he may not start the season in the majors, he will definitely appear at some point in 2021. Whether it’s as a starter or a reliever will be up to how he performs in the coming months.
Big Risk, Big Payoff
When the Mets signed a career minor leaguer to a $750,000 major league contract this winter, many were obviously confused. The pitcher in question is 25-year-old Sam McWilliams. Through six years with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Rays, McWilliams showed flashes of greatness (2.05 ERA in AA in 2019), but also immense struggles (9.00 ERA in AAA in 2019).
What makes him so intriguing, however, is that in lieu of a 2020 minor league season, McWilliams spent his time working with the Rays’ analytics gurus to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher. Suddenly, he went from a mid-tier strikeout pitcher with a low-90s two-seamer, to an deadly strikeout threat with a four-seamer reaching 98 mph. If his first appearance in spring training this year is anything to go by (1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 strikeouts), the Mets’ gamble on McWilliams is shaping up to be a success.
Like Kilome, McWilliams may ultimately be more suited as a reliever than a starter. Regardless, whatever role he’s given, McWilliams is ready to make an immediate impact.
Featured Image Courtesy of Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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