Mauricio makes his mark for Mets in Spring Training

March 1st, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Grapefruit League home run leader so far this spring? None other than .

The Mets’ No. 6-ranked prospect went deep for the third time in four days on Wednesday, clubbing a pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning of their 8-4 win over the Marlins. That one traveled 413 feet, according to Statcast data, bringing Mauricio’s spring total to 1,276 feet -- nearly a quarter mile -- of homers.

“He’s, like a lot of our young players, off to a good start in the spring,” manager Buck Showalter said.

As a 21-year-old with no Triple-A experience, Mauricio is a long shot to challenge for a place on New York’s Opening Day roster -- particularly with Francisco Lindor entrenched at shortstop and another hot-hitting prospect, Brett Baty, ahead of him on the depth chart at third. But Mauricio’s hot start bodes well for his future, especially on the heels of a resurgent 2022 campaign and a Dominican Winter League MVP trophy.

With Lindor heading to the World Baseball Classic on Monday, Mauricio figures to continue receiving ample opportunities at shortstop.

Álvarez on the way
Through nearly a week of Grapefruit League play, No. 1-ranked prospect and catcher Francisco Álvarez has been limited to DH work. According to Showalter, it’s been due to the team’s desire to make sure Álvarez, who underwent surgery on his right ankle in October, is completely healthy before taxing him with catching duties.

That process is nearly complete. The Mets are satisfied with Álvarez’s progress on the back fields and expect him to be available for in-game catching duties beginning Friday. Three days later, Omar Narváez will leave for the WBC, giving Álvarez plenty of time to make up for the lost week of games.

Speaking of the WBC…
Lindor appears tournament-ready after clubbing his first Grapefruit League homer against the Marlins. He said he has several “boxes” he likes to tick off each spring and is nearly there offensively. Defense has been a bit more of a challenge for Lindor, who’s learning how best to position himself given a new prohibition on infielders setting up on the outfield grass.

Along with WBC teammates Edwin Díaz and Dominic Hamel, Lindor will leave for tournament training in Arizona on Monday. He plans to re-bleach his fading hair by then in solidarity with the rest of Team Puerto Rico.

“I don’t know if I’ll braid it. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Lindor said. “Then when I come back, I’ll change it again. If I go bald, I’m going to maximize the hell out of my hair.”

Throwing a curve
Tylor Megill featured a revamped pitch mix in his two innings Wednesday, throwing a higher percentage of curveballs than he has in the past. The curveball has been a point of emphasis this spring for Megill, who feels comfortable enough with his fastball, slider and changeup to incorporate a fourth pitch regularly into his arsenal.

Last year, Megill threw just 22 curves all season, representing 2.8% of his total pitches. He intends to increase that this year, especially against left-handers, giving them another angle to consider at the plate.

“Curveball’s been the big one this offseason,” Megill said. “I threw a couple today for strikes, and that was the biggest thing. I’m excited to try to dump them in there and use it as a two-strike pitch as well."

The world is watching
Monday’s game between the Mets and Cardinals was ESPN’s most-watched Spring Training broadcast in seven years, according to the network. The broadcast averaged 423,000 viewers and peaked at 475,000. The last ESPN spring game to draw a larger audience was a primetime matchup of the Cubs and Giants in 2016.

Superfan No.1
Following Wednesday’s game, most of what Showalter wanted to discuss involved a fan near the Mets’ dugout who cheered loudly and ceaselessly for the team throughout the entire game. The fan, Showalter said, seemed to know every player on the roster. At one point, Showalter gave the fan the lineup card from his pocket as a souvenir.

“He deserved it,” the Mets' manager said.