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Luis Guillorme can do a little bit of everything for the Mets

The utility man broke out in 2020 and now faces competition for playing time

Baltimore Orioles v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Luis Guillorme proved immensely valuable for the Mets in their Frankenstein’s monster of a season in 2020. On days where the Mets had to fill half their defensive spots with irregular starters or defensive liabilities, Guillorme’s ability to play well anywhere on the infield gave manager Luis Rojas some breathing room when filling out a lineup card. As a result, he played in half of the team’s games in 2020 after playing in only 28% of games in 2019 and 22% in 2018.

Guillorme maximized his playing time by having the best season of his career, hitting for a 144 wRC+ in 68 plate appearances while starting multiple games at second and third base, and even getting a start at shortstop. He also pitched an inning, junkballing his way through a 1-2-3 inning in a blowout loss to the Nationals. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team asked him to be an emergency catcher, too, though it’s unclear if Jeff McNeil has relinquished that title yet.

Guillorme has progressed from unimaginably cool spring training highlight man to essential bench player, and his contributions to the team may grow in 2021. The loss of Robinson Canó, Andrés Giménez, and Amed Rosario leaves much more playing time in the middle of the infield, where Guillorme plays best, making him the go-to backup to Francisco Lindor at short, J.D. Davis at third, and Jeff McNeil wherever the Mets decide to play him. If Davis especially doesn’t build upon his defensive improvements at third base, Guillorme could be a consistent late-inning replacement, which the bullpen should appreciate tremendously.

What kept Guillorme down in the minors for so long is a backlog in the middle of the infield and an unimpressive bat, but he has now cleared the first hurdle and has made tremendous improvements on the second. It’s easy to be skeptical of a 144 wRC+ in only 30 games of a shortened season, but it’s hard to ignore Guillorme’s offensive progression in the last three seasons:

Guillorme’s offensive progression

2018 35 .209 .284 .239 .523 52
2019 45 .246 .324 .361 .685 87
2020 30 .333 .426 .439 .865 144
Source: Fangraphs

One shouldn’t expect Guillorme to repeat his offensive production from 2020 in 2021, but a regression to the mean for Guillorme might make him at least a league-average hitter. With his positive defensive metrics and eye-popping infield abilities, he has the potential to become an everyday player on a less-crowded infield.

The 26-year-old has done enough to prove he belongs in the majors, but his biggest challenge in 2021 may not be the already-loaded infield but a new challenger on the bench. Much like Guillorme, new Met Jonathan Villar can play every infield position, though not as well as his Venezuelan teammate. Unlike Guillorme, however, Villar can hit dingers and steal bases, two skills that the Mets would love to keep warm on the bench. Since becoming a regular player in 2013, Villar has alternated between very good and very bad seasons, most recently accumulating negative fWAR in 2020. But if Villar is able to resuscitate his old magic, it might be enough to demote Guillorme to a spottier role in 2021.

For now, the Mets should hang their hopes on Guillorme’s steady improvement over Villar’s unpredictability, especially since Guillorme presents more value while still under team control. His offensive explosion in 2020 makes his ceiling a little unclear, but one can confidently judge his floor as a productive bench player in 2021.