Mauricio adds to versatility, plays second base at Triple-A

Vientos raking at Syracuse; Schwartz sees time in left field

April 23rd, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- From the moment the Mets signed Francisco Lindor to a 10-year contract extension before the 2021 season, it seemed obvious that the team would eventually need to move blue-chip prospect Ronny Mauricio off his natural position of shortstop. But it didn’t happen that year. It didn’t happen the next year. It didn’t even happen this spring, as Mauricio edged ever closer to the big leagues with a standout camp.

Finally, on Friday, it happened: The Mets moved Mauricio, their sixth-ranked prospect, to second base for the first time in a Minor League game.

“The plan is to move him around a little bit now,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s to increase his versatility -- something he’s good at.”

In addition to second, Showalter mentioned first base, third base and the outfield as potential destinations for Mauricio, noting that Minor League infield coordinator Miguel Cairo thinks he is athletic enough to handle any of them. Mauricio did play a game at second during the most recent Dominican Winter League season, plus nine games at third -- the latter position his most comfortable home outside of shortstop. Soon, the Mets believe he could be one of the most versatile defenders in their entire farm system.

“I can play any position,” Mauricio said in Spring Training, conducting an interview in English for one of the first times in his career. “I want to play in the big leagues, so I can play third base, outfield, second base.”

For years, the Mets resisted that notion. Not only did they want Mauricio to focus on his offensive development, but they knew keeping him at shortstop in the short term couldn’t hurt his trade value. Now though, Mauricio is knocking on the door to the Majors, with six home runs and a .360/.407/.720 slash line over his first 20 games at Triple-A Syracuse. There’s little reason for the Mets to wait any longer. The time to begin Mauricio’s long-awaited migration off shortstop has arrived.

Triple-A Syracuse

With Brett Baty and Francisco Álvarez in the Majors, all eyes at Syracuse have shifted to Mauricio and No. 8 prospect Mark Vientos, who’s been just as successful at the plate. Vientos went 3-for-4 on Saturday to boost his slash line to .368/.457/.706 with six home runs. Only four players in the International League have more homers. Vientos does still possess a 24.7% strikeout rate at Syracuse, which has long been a concern for team evaluators. But if Vientos continues thriving in spite of that, it will be difficult for the Mets to hold him in the Minors much longer.

Double-A Binghamton

Add JT Schwartz to the list of those whose defensive versatility the Mets aim to increase. The natural first baseman has made four appearances in left field this season, manning that position for the first time since he was in college. Schwartz, the Mets’ fourth-round pick in 2021 who is currently not ranked among their Top 30 prospects, drove home 15 runs over his first 12 games at Binghamton in his first taste of the upper Minors.

High-A Brooklyn

Earlier this week, Showalter name-checked No. 4 prospect Alex Ramírez for his hot start to the season, which included 15 hits over his first 12 games. On Saturday, Ramírez had his most memorable moment to date at Brooklyn, hitting an 11th-inning, walk-off single off the left-field fence. A true five-tool talent, Ramírez has the potential to be an impact player on both sides of the ball. There are still plenty of developmental milestones for Ramírez to achieve, but at age 20, he’s well on his way.

Single-A St. Lucie

The player to watch at St. Lucie this summer is clearly Jett Williams, a first-round pick last June (the Mets’ second selection behind Kevin Parada). Over his first 11 games of full-season ball, the 19-year-old Williams walked 13 times, demonstrating the type of plate discipline that could one day make him a feared leadoff hitter. (He’s attempted seven steals so far this season, though only three have been successful.) Williams made several appearances in Grapefruit League games this spring, impressing Showalter and others with his skills as a teenager.