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Luis Guillorme proved he belongs in 2019

The young defensive wizard had some big moments for the Mets this season.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After an offseason in which the Mets added several veteran middle infielders on minor league contracts to their Triple-A roster, it was unclear if there would be any room for Luis Guillorme at the big league level in 2019. Guillorme entered spring training coming off of a 2018 season in which he performed well with Triple-A Las Vegas - posting a 114 wRC+ with a batting line of .304/.380/.417 in 281 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League - and earned a promotion to the big leagues to make his big league debut in the middle of May. He spent the rest of the season bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Las Vegas and the big league club, serving as an emergency fill-in around the infield and covering for various injuries. He ended up logging 74 plate appearances across 35 games for the Mets in 2018, and generally looked over-matched offensively against big league pitching, posting just a 52 wRC+ with a paltry .209/.284/.239 batting line. While he struggled mightily with the bat during his first taste of big league action, Guillorme played characteristically good defense across the infield, although he did not play a single inning at shortstop out of deference to Amed Rosario.

As a result of his early struggles, the Mets opted to add several veteran middle infielders on minor league contracts to their organization. The team brought former Met farmhand Dilson Herrera, old friend Ruben Tejada, Danny Espinosa, and Adeiny Hechavarria into the organization to serve as infield depth and to compete with Guillorme for a utility role on the back end of the active roster. If Luis Guillorme was going to spend significant time in the big leagues in 2019, he was going to have to beat out these veterans and earn his place on the field with his play with the Triple-A Syracuse Mets first.

For the most part, Guillorme did just that, spending a good portion of the season with the big league club, and performing significantly better at both the minor and major league levels than he did during the 2018 season. Spring training injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie cleared a spot for Guillorme to break camp with the team on the active roster to start the season. Guillorme received sporadic playing time throughout the season’s first few weeks, and spent the majority of the first half of the season bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues, much like he had in 2018. Guillorme generally struggled offensively with the big league club during his sparse chances to play during the first half, posting a -10 wRC+ with a batting line of .182/.143/.325 in 22 plate appearances scattered across 14 games. He ended up being optioned back to Syracuse on April 26, and spent the majority of the rest of the first half, with the exception of a few small stints with the big league team, in the minor leagues.

While he struggled to get going offensively at the major league level, Guillorme thrived on both sides of the ball with Triple-A Syracuse this season. Guillorme appeared in 69 games and hit .307/.412/.452 with a 128 wRC+ in 278 plate appearances for the Syracuse Mets between stints with the big league club in 2019. Perhaps most encouragingly, Guillorme hit a career high seven home runs in Triple-A while walking almost as often as he struck out. Guillorme’s characteristically superb defense carried over to the International League, despite logging time all over the infield.

In total, Guillorme hit .300 or better for the second straight season in Triple-A, while also getting on base more and hitting for more power than he did in his first season at the Triple-A level.

Guillorme’s performance in Triple-A put him in line for a return to the big league club in early August, when Robinson Cano was placed on the injured list with a torn hamstring. The Mets signed Joe Panik later in the week, and designated Adeiny Hechavarria for assignment, which created a more lasting role for Guillorme on the big league roster as the team’s only bench player capable of playing shortstop. While his playing time remained sporadic, Guillorme’s return to the big leagues went significantly better than his earlier stints had gone. Guillorme hit .282/.378/.462 with a 127 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances from his return to the big leagues on August 5 through the end of the season, and contributed with a few timely hits to help the Mets win during their blistering August.

Among these hits was Guillorme’s first major league home run, which came at the perfect time. On August 10, Guillorme came in to pinch hit for Juan Lagares against Fernando Rodney with the Mets trailing the Nationals 3-2. Guillorme worked the count full against Rodney, before pulling a fastball on the inner half over the right field fence to tie the game. The Mets went on to take the lead later in the inning, and defeated the Nationals 4-3, putting them just a half game behind the Nats for a wild card spot.

Guillorme continued to perform when called upon down the stretch, and ended up posting an 87 wRC+ with a batting line of .246/.324/.361 in 70 plate appearances across 45 games at the big league level in 2019. While he was still a below average hitter, he managed to improve significantly upon his similarly small-sample offensive performance from 2018. In addition to improving his batting average and on-base percentage by nearly 40 points, Guillorme managed to add some power to his game, adding four doubles to go with the first homer of his career, and helping him improve his isolated slugging percentage to .115 from the anemic .030 ISO he put up in 2018.

All of this bodes well for Guillorme’s big league prospects heading into 2020 and beyond. Given his defensive acumen across the infield, and ability to play an above-average shortstop at the big league level, Guillorme doesn’t have to hit much to have a long career as a utility infielder on the periphery of a team’s 25 man roster. If he can maintain his offensive gains from 2019 into the future, and continue to hit within shouting distance of a league average batting line, Guillorme should continue to prove that he belongs in the big leagues moving forward, just like he did in 2019.