Mets' No. 2 prospect adds muscle, power

June 10th, 2021

NEW YORK -- When the Mets inked out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 to a then-franchise-record $2.1 million signing bonus, scouts predicted the 16-year-old shortstop would hit for more power as his 6-foot-3 frame filled out. That projection is coming to fruition in 2021.

Mauricio, the Mets' No. 2 prospect and No. 53 overall according to MLB Pipeline, is officially listed at 166 pounds; however, he’s bulked up quite a bit since his last Minor League season in 2019, which has indeed translated into more power.

After hitting just seven home runs in 173 games over his first two years in the Mets’ system, Mauricio entered Thursday with six homers, a .761 OPS and 22 RBIs in 26 games for the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones this season.

“Last year, I focused mostly on my body,” Mauricio said in Spanish via Zoom. “I focused on adding a few pounds and more muscle. I think that’s what’s helping me now.”

What we’re seeing might just be the beginning of Mauricio’s power stroke, as Brooklyn hitting coach Nic Jackson thinks the prized prospect is not done maturing physically.

“He's still really early in his development, and I’m really happy with how hard he’s hit the ball,” Jackson said. “He’s a guy with a big frame. I still think there's more filling out that he's going to do. And I'm really happy with the way he's driving the ball.”

Mauricio, who turned 20 in April, still has plenty of work to do to fulfill his potential at the plate, particularly as far as controlling the strike zone is concerned. A .267/.302/.390 hitter since he made his professional debut in Rookie ball in 2018, Mauricio has struck out at a rate of 31.9 percent this season, while his walk rate is merely 3.5 percent.

“As much as he wants to be full throttle all the time, he's starting to understand, ‘I have to pick and choose my spots a little bit more as I'm starting to face better pitching,’” Jackson said. “Because, you know, for a long time, he's going to be one of the younger guys at a level, and he's gonna have to continue to adjust to that. He's on his way. He's aware of it.”

A switch-hitter, Mauricio was invited to the Mets' alternate training site in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2020 and went 9-for-14 in nine Grapefruit League games during Spring Training this year. By the time he’s ready to take his first hacks as a big leaguer, however, it could very well be for another club.

Mauricio, who has played exclusively at shortstop in his professional career, has recently made strides on the other side of the ball -- “I’ve been really impressed over the last three weeks on how much he’s improved defensively,” Jackson said -- but at the Major League level, he is blocked at the position by Francisco Lindor, whom New York acquired in a trade with Cleveland on Jan. 7 and subsequently signed to a 10-year contract worth $341 million. Mauricio's value to the organization might therefore be as a trade chip.

If he were to remain in the Mets’ system long-term, Mauricio would almost certainly be forced to change positions. Given his physique and his tools, which include a plus throwing arm but not much in the way of speed, third base appears to be the most likely scenario.

Mauricio has said he’s open to the possibility.

“It’s up to the team to decide what they’re going to do, if they want me to play another position or something,” he said. “I’d be willing to do it. I think I can play whatever position they put me in. I have the ability to do that.”

Regardless of where Mauricio ends up, based on what he’s seen so far this year, Jackson believes his charge has “the physical ability to be a really, really special player, like a middle-of-the-order type guy.”