Three months ago, the Mets had three promising young shortstops, all of whom were the team’s top prospect at one point. Two months ago they traded two of them to the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor. This leaves 19-year-old Ronny Mauricio as the last man standing. Now, with talks of the Mets extending Lindor long-term, what does this mean for Mauricio? Where, if anywhere, does the Mets’ second ranked prospect fit into their future?
The most logical answer is to move Mauricio to third base. With only 159 games under his belt since 2018, he is raw enough that learning new positions shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus, scouts have long projected that third base would ultimately be Mauricio’s landing spot.
Compared to most shortstops, Mauricio is tall and lanky (6-3, 166 pounds) and on the slow side. He does, however, have great reaction time and a powerful arm that make up for these deficiencies. He’s also very athletic despite his stature and is expected to fill out his body as he approaches the majors. All of this is to say that he profiles as the perfect third basemen.
Recent precedent is also on Mauricio’s side here as Andres Gimenez looked solid at third base last year. The Mets’ top shortstop prospect before Mauricio, Gimenez played 34 innings at third and was worth 2 Outs Above Average. With superior arm strength, Mauricio should be able to outperform Gimenez given the proper time.
With J.D. Davis’ future with the team unknown, there may be an opening at third in the next year or so. The only problem for Mauricio, though, is that the Mets already have two promising third base prospects. Brett Baty and Mark Vientos both show a lot of potential and currently profile as better hitters than Mauricio. They also have major league ETAs of 2022, the same as Mauricio. So while third base may seem perfect for Mauricio in a vacuum, in reality things aren’t so simple.
With third base too cluttered, perhaps center field is the best option for Mauricio. He certainly has the arm, reaction time and natural athleticism for it. While his lack of speed is definitely a concern, proper route taking should alleviate this issue.
As for recent Mets shortstops to play center, things couldn’t be more split. On one end is 2014 Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares. Most people probably don’t even know that Lagares was originally a shortstop. From 2006-08, he started 201 games at short before moving to the center in 2009. Even though injuries derailed his career, he will still go down as one of the greatest defensive outfielders in Mets history.
On the other end is Amed Rosario. The other shortstop dealt away for Lindor, he was long rumored to be switched to a center fielder. Like Lagares, he has above average speed and athleticism which made many believe a similarly successful transition could occur. Unfortunately, Rosario is struggling immensely in center. In nine innings this spring, he’s already committed three errors and has just four put outs on seven chances.
On top of these two representing completely different extremes, Mauricio also lacks their natural speed, making his outlook even hazier.
As for projected openings in center, things are a bit better than at third. As it stands, the Mets are hoping that the DH returns in 2022 so they can finally move Dominic Smith out of left field. This would also mean that Brandon Nimmo can shift back into left, thus opening up center. Furthermore, with no guarantee that Michael Conforto will be on the team next year, there may be a vacancy in right field as well.
Currently, the top outfield prospects on the team are Pete Crow-Armstrong and Khalil Lee. Crow-Armstrong still has a long way to go before reaching the majors as he’s yet to appear in any minor league games. Lee, meanwhile, was projected to start in the majors this year before being traded from the Royals. Both are natural center fielders, again leaving Mauricio as the least experienced of the bunch. That said, with the potential for two openings in the outfield next season, there’s still a very small chance that Mauricio fills one of them.
With third base and center field not being guarantees, this might leave the Mets with only one option: trade Mauricio. Trading three straight top prospects might sound crazy, but with there being no scenario in which the Mets extend Lindor and keep Mauricio at shortstop, this might be the best course of action. There will always be a need among teams for highly athletic shortstops with the potential to play other positions. As a highly touted prospect, the Mets should be able to land a fairly decent haul. Even if it’s just Mauricio for another player straight up, the return will undoubtedly be a proven major leaguer.
Whether any of this comes to pass will depend on what happens in the next 10 days. With Lindor’s extension talks set to end once the season begins, Mauricio’s future is in limbo until then.
Featured Image Courtesy of Gordon Donovan/New York Mets
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