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Luis Guillorme will lead the bench mob

With a crowded infield, Guillorme figures to be featured off the bench.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re going to be a backup player in the majors, a good position on the field to back up is “everywhere.” Luis Guillorme has never quite shown that Ben Zobrist/Chris Taylor “play anywhere” utility, but his hallowed defensive wizardry and his numerous spring training highlights have painted him with a certain glow over his four seasons in Queens. He may not run very fast or hit very far, but Guillorme has always been talked about with a sense of reliability: if someone on the infield goes down, at least Guillorme will be there to lock down the position. Heck, he might even improve the defense wherever he plays.

Heading into the offseason, it seemed as if Guillorme might have a better chance to play significant innings in 2022 after injuries stalled an otherwise fine season in 2021, especially since the team suddenly had a lot of positional holes to fill. The uncertainty of Michael Conforto’s and Jonathan Villar’s status with the team opened up a couple of positions that would certainly involve Guillorme, and the likelihood of the team opening up more spots by trading one or more of Dom Smith, Jeff McNeil, and J.D. Davis seemed pretty high. But then the team replaced Jonathan Villar by signing Eduardo Escobar and filled not one but two open outfield spots with Mark Canha and Starling Marte. And while trading any of Smith, McNeill, and Davis may still be on the table, all three remain on the roster and might even start on Opening Day. Oh, and Robinson Canó is back, and he’ll likely play a lot at second base this season. But Guillorme is still hanging around, so he can still back everyone up on the infield, right?

While Guillorme’s active hands and magnetic glove make him look like an infield wizard, the advanced numbers paint a less impressive portrait. His best chance of starting this season is at third base, where the Mets don’t have an obvious starter, but third base happens to be Guillorme’s worst position, with both Fangraphs and Statcast listing him as a negative fielder there throughout his career. With 2 OAA at second base in 2021 in limited playing time, Statcast sees Guillorme as a plus defender at his best position; unfortunately, it’s also Canó’s, McNeil’s, and Escobar’s best position, and all three of those players profile much better offensively than Guillorme.

Ironically, if there’s any place that Guillorme is undervalued it’s at the plate. He’s only hit two home runs and seventeen extra-base hits in his career, so no one should expect any pop from his bat. But his 14.7% walk rate more than doubled that of McNeil’s last year, and his identical 14.7% strikeout rate was far better than Escobar’s 20.7%. Even without much power, Guillorme’s great eye and reliable hands make him a perfectly acceptable batter, as he parlayed both of those skills into a 99 wRC+ in 2021. But for a team with championship aspirations, the Mets don’t have much incentive to give lineup spots to solidly average bats when more valuable options exist.

The truth about Guillorme is that he’s much closer to an average hitter than people give him credit for, but the numbers suggest he’s also much closer to an average fielder than his reputation dictates. That’s the profile of a solid bench player on a pennant-chasing team, and Guillorme might find himself the best player on a yet-to-be-settled bench. But unless two or three players see significant injuries or under-perform on the infield, the bench is likely where Guillorme will live throughout the season.