Ronny Mauricio’s defense since move to second base may lead to Mets call-up
DENVER — The Mets have brought three-quarters of their heralded offensive prospects to the major leagues this season, but what about the missing piece?
Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty have contributed significantly to the club since their recall from Triple-A Syracuse and Mark Vientos has positively impacted the Mets in his limited opportunities. Exhibit D is Ronny Mauricio, who continues to sizzle for Syracuse.
Mauricio entered Friday with a .348/.384/.586 slash line with seven homers, 33 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
The organization last month moved the 22-year-old from shortstop to second base, better positioning him to help the Mets this season.
As it stands, Francisco Lindor is entrenched at shortstop, but Jeff McNeil can shift almost full time to the outfield if it’s decided Mauricio fits at second base.
“[Mauricio] is working on controlling the strike zone,” Mets director of player development Kevin Howard said. “He’s continued to show power, continued to show amazing contact ability. It’s just honing in that ability to swing at strikes and take balls that he has wanted to improve.”
Before the Mets faced the Rockies on Friday, manager Buck Showalter said Mauricio’s effort to improve defensively at second base has been noticeable. Mauricio entered Friday with six errors as a second baseman in 24 games at the position.
He had five errors in 20 games as a shortstop.
“I like the fact that he’s working hard at it,” Showalter said, referring to Mauricio’s defense. “I think everybody is real patient with some of the new things that have been thrown at him. But he’s a quick learner. He will figure it out. … I think he is going to be a good defender when all is said and done.”
The larger issue at the moment might be trying to fit Mauricio onto a roster whose depth consists largely of veterans under contract through this season.
It’s a group that includes Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha and Tommy Pham. Promoting Mauricio likely would entail unloading one from that group and the remaining depth might receive less playing time.
After a solid season for the Mets last year, Canha has struggled and his playing time has been reduced. Mauricio’s promotion would further whittle his playing time, with McNeil perhaps entrenched in left field.
“It’s not something I need to be caring about,” Canha said when asked about the possibility of losing further playing time should Mauricio get promoted. “I am focused on going out there and playing when I am called upon. That is something completely out of my control and not something I should be worrying about.”
Mauricio impressed team officials with his power display in spring training, with four home runs in 33 at-bats.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised,” Howard said. “He’s been so young at every level that you forget what a talented individual he is, but we have seen this from him at an age below the average age level for the last three or four years with him, so we knew he had this in him and he’s going to be a great big leaguer for a long time once he gets a shot.”
The Mets eventually could look to give Mauricio a shot in the outfield, allowing McNeil to remain at second base, but if that happens it won’t be immediately, according to Howard.
“I think right now the focus is second base,” Howard said. “Get as good as you can at second base. I think all the other talks of outfield or any other position, third, those are kind of pushed down the road until we complete what we think is the best process for him to get good at second.”
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