MLB sources explain why Luis Guillorme could play significant role for Mets in 2021

Mets' Luis Guillorme backhands a groundball in spring training

Mets’ Luis Guillorme backhands a groundball in spring training

Luis Guillorme is making the case that he must play a substantial function this season, particularly because Mets brass has actually acknowledged the requirement to enhance defensively as it tackles attempting to construct a championship-caliber group.

And Guillorme’s legendary 22-pitch plate look versus Jordan Hicks on Sunday was a suggestion of what the 26-year-old infielder gives the table on the offending side.

J.D. Davis is slotted in as the routine at 3rd, and while his bat ought to be a crucial weapon, his defense figures to be pricey sometimes. Therefore Guillorme is an appealing choice, particularly behind ground-ball pitchers such as Marcus Stroman and David Peterson.

“Guillorme is an interesting guy,” was the method one scout put it. “Great hands. Limited range but a quick first step and smooth transfer makes him a good fit at third base. He’ll help you win games with his glove and then the question is how much will he hit.

“Davis has more pop but Guillorme is a tough out and he showed signs last year that he can do more than just put the ball in play. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that third base situation shakes out for them.”

In a utility function last season, Guillorme struck .333 with a .425 on-base portion in 68 plate looks. Though he didn’t strike any crowning achievement, his 6 doubles and .865 OPS were proof to the Mets that he was ending up being more of an effect player.

Former ’86 Met Tim Teufel, now the organization’s roving infield instructor, has observed and worked with Guillorme since the team drafted him out of a Florida high school as their 10th-round pick in 2013, and he believes the left-handed player could be coming of age.

“I’ve seen the growth in him offensively,” Teufel said by phone. “He’s always been a very good contact hitter who’s able to get the barrel on the ball and doesn’t strike out a lot. Sometimes those types of guys bloom late.

“He used to be more of a slap hitter but last year (hitting instructor) Chili Davis had him looking to be more aggressive on pitches he could pull and he started driving the ball more. He’ll always be able to shoot the ball to left field but if he can get aggressive and pull the inside pitch, there might be a lot more in the tank with him.

“I’m not saying he’s Daniel Murphy, but Murph was a high-contact guy and nobody saw him blossoming into more of a power hitter the way he did. That’s why you don’t put a limit on guys who can make contact and barrel the ball. That’s a special trait.”

What has always been most special about Guillorme, though, is his ability to make plays with the glove, whether at shortstop, second base or third. Mets’ VP of amateur scouting, Tommy Tanous, recalls being instantly wowed upon seeing him play in high school.

“It took about five seconds to realize, ‘holy cow, this kid can handle the glove,’“ Tanous said by phone. “He’s got elite hands, like a Javy Baez or a Jose Iglesias.”

Guillorme made an indelible impression with those hands before fans had ever seen him play, when he famously — and casually — reached up from his perch along the dugout fence to snatch a flying bat out of the air in spring training of 2017, while other players scrambled out of the way after the Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria had lost his grip swinging at a pitch.

Calling the game on TV at the time, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez reacted in disbelief at Guillorme’s nonchalant one-handed grab as the bat sailed just to right of his head.

“Who is that?” Darling wanted to know.

“I’ve never seen that,” Hernandez added in amazement.

Tanous wasn’t in Port St. Lucie that day but the moment became practically legendary within the Mets company, so much so that the long-time scout cut me off instantly when I began to ask if he’d seen the time…

“When he caught the bat?” Tanous said with a laugh. “Yeah, that was something. That’s how sure-handed he is. When it comes to catching things, everything moves in slow motion to him.”

As such there always figured to be a role in the big leagues for Guillorme at least as a utility infielder. And that’s what he’s done here and there, mostly filling in for injuries because 2018. But he didn’t make a strong impression until last year when, as Teufel saw it, he began to understand the work ethic it took to be ready at the major league level.

“To me his maturity isn’t just at the plate but with his attitude,” Teufel said. “He’s learned what it takes to stay in the big leagues. In the minors we had to push him a little bit but I think that’s all behind him.

“(Infield coach) Gary DiSarcina has done some great work with Luis, getting him to practice with a purpose and with a little more urgency. As a role player you need those practice habits to stay sharp and he does that now. He could be a valuable guy in whatever role he’s used this year.”

The extent of that role might depend on simply just how much the Mets follow through on their mentioned desire to make defense more of a top priority. They understand Guillorme, at age 26, will be a possession with the glove, and possibly the bat too.

Weighing that versus what Davis can supply offensively must produce, as the scout put it, some fascinating decision-making.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.