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State of the System 2020: Second Base

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Second base isn’t exactly a “prospecty” position, but the Mets really wouldn’t have anyone there anyway even if it was.

Luke Ritter
Luke Ritter
Steve Sypa

Second base is the red-headed stepchild of baseball. It’s an enormously important position, but generally is an afterthought. A player needs a set of highly specific skills to be able to man the position, but it often is simply where anybody who is mobile enough to not be limited to first base is thrown. Nobody sets out to become a second baseman, but in order to field a team, you need one.

The lack of minor league depth plaguing the Mets’ minor league system in recent years has been especially apparent at second base. In 2019, the majority of players who manned second base for the Syracuse Mets were free agents. Luis Guillorme is the only player who got time at second who is still in the organization, as Dilson Herrera, Danny Espinosa, Arismendy Alcantara, Ruben Tejada and Sam Haggerty are all currently in other organizations.

Michael Paez and Luis Carpio were the primary second basemen for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, with Sam Haggerty and Gavin Cecchini getting some time there as well- once again players who are no longer in the organization. Neither Paez or Carpio were particularly impressive in 2019, with the former hitting .219/.297/.296 in 99 games and the latter hitting .263/.347/.362 in 82 games, but Carpio does have some prospect pedigree. Named by Amazin’ Avenue the Mets’ sixth best prospect in 2016, he exploded onto the scene in 2015 but had major shoulder surgery in 2016 that has since seemingly altered his career trajectory.

Carlos Cortes was the primary second baseman for the St. Lucie Mets in 2019, and the middle infielder is one of the more divisive players in the system. Initially drafted out of high school in 2016, Cortes elected to attend college instead of signing with the Mets. A draft-eligible sophomore, the Mets once again drafted Cortes in 2018, enticing to sign with a $1,038,000 signing bonus, more than $300,000 over the assigned slot value. While he hit well enough in Brooklyn, the 22-year-old struggled in St. Lucie, hitting just .255/.336/.397 in 127 games. Drafted primarily on the power of his bat, the diminutive Cortes, who stands only 5’9”, often sunk his own game thanks to a planar swing and his free-swinging ways. He knows how to draw walks and can give solid at-bats but needs to find a balance between his being too aggressive and not being aggressive enough.

The Columbia Fireflies had three players get the bulk of second base playing time: Shervyen Newton, Chandler Avant, and Walter Rasquin. Of the three, only Newton is still in the system, as Avant was released and Rasquin became a free agent. The Mets’ tenth top prospect for the 2020 season, Newton exploded onto the scene in 2019, hitting .280/.408/.449 in 56 games for the Kingsport Mets, but followed that up with disappointing season by any measure, hitting .209/.283/.330 in 109 games with the Colaflies. Despite the poor numbers, he still displayed the raw tools that had him so highly ranked, displaying light tower power in batting practice and strong defensive skills. On any other team, Newton would likely have played shortstop, or even third base, but because of the presence of Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, the Curaçaoan was relegated to second.

Drafted in the seventh round 2019 MLB Draft, Luke Ritter played virtually every single inning the Brooklyn Cyclones had available for second base, the ironman of the team. The Wichita State product hit .245/.351/.371, producing the third highest OPS on the team among qualified hitters. While his profile is nothing special as a whole, he provides reliable offensive output and steady defense at the keystone.

Gregory Guerrero, of the fabled Guerrero clan, was given a $1.5 million dollars in 2015, the largest the Mets handed out that year, but has failed to develop as a ballplayer. Considered one of the top players available during the 2015-2016 international free agent signing period, Guerrero spent 2016 with the DSL Mets putting up disappointing numbers and was then brought stateside in 2017, where he put up disappointing numbers with the GCL Mets. He missed the entire 2018 season thanks to shoulder surgery, returning in 2019 when he played in 53 games for the Kingsport Mets. Though he displayed more power than he had in prior seasons, the 20-year-old hit .222/.323/.376 and generally struggled because, of all things for a Guerrero, poor mechanics at the plate. Defensively, he showed a solid glove and smooth actions, but the lack of quick-twitch explosiveness, agility, and range in his 6’, 185-pound frame leaves very little room for error.

Nick Conti, grandson of Guy, accrued the most playing time at second base on the GCL Mets, but more exciting than 39th round draft pick was his understudy, Federico Polanco. The cousin of Mets top prospect Ronny Mauricio, the 18-year-old was brought stateside at the end of the season after hitting .331/.414/.472 in the Dominican Summer League. While the numbers were generally unimpressive in the Gulf Coast League- he hit .176/.275/.206 in 14 games- Polanco has an exciting profile. At the plate, he shows an advanced approach, grinding out at-bats like a veteran. The doubles that he sprays around the field should eventually start turning into home runs as his undersized 6’1”, 160-pound frame begins filling in. His defensive abilities are nowhere near as refined as his bat at this stage in his career, but he projects to be a capable middle infielder.

One silver lining regarding the dearth of accomplished second basemen in the system is that the organization has a handful of shortstops that are more highly considered, and any could be shifted over to second base with no problem.