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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week One

What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, April 4th to April 9th?

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets
Ronny Mauricio
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Ronny Mauricio

Week: 6 G, 20 AB, .400/.455/1.000, 8 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 0/1 SB (Triple-A)

2023 Season: 9 G, 34 AB, .353/.405/.735, 12 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 3 BB, 6 K, 0/1 SB, .360 BABIP (Triple-A)

Mauricio, who turned 21 on April 4, had one of his best weeks as a professional. In six games, he logged eight hits, five of which were for extra bases. Even more interesting are his peripheral numbers. Through nine games, he has 3 walks; in 2022, he drew his third walk of the season on April 29, his fifteenth game. Through nine games, he has 6 strikeouts; in 2022, he reached the six strikeout mark on April 9, his second game. Those are 8.1% and 16.2% rates.

Obviously, the sample sizes are extremely small, but it is also interesting to note that this current performance is coming on the heels of an MVP-winning Dominican Winter League performance with the Tigres del Licey where he hit .287/.335/.468 with 15 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts, 10 walks, and 43 strikeouts. It is of course important to note that the talent level the shortstop was facing in the Dominican Winter League- and even during this past week against the Rochester Red Wings, who are 1-7 on the season with a 22/43/-21 run differential- is not exactly quality, and thus, not necessarily indicative of anything meaningful.

Historically, Mauricio’s major flaw has been his ability to recognize and react to breaking balls. He struggles to pick up on spin out of the hand, and when he can, with a long-levered swing, he struggles to adjust, resulting in pitches that are either swung through on or result in weak contact. These issues remained as recently as spring training; against changeups, he swung at 54.1% of the pitches he saw and whiffed at a 13.5% rate; against sliders, he swung at 55.9% and whiffed at a 23.6% rate; against curveballs, he swung at a 34.8 rate and whiffed at a 13.1% rate. Compare to his numbers against fastballs and sinkers, where he swung at a combined 48.4% rate and whiffed at a 2% rate.

It is very possible that a lightbulb has gone on and Mauricio will have better outcomes against secondary pitches. The shortstop has legitimate superstar potential, but this flaw was realistically a fatal one- it does not matter how loud your other tools are if you struggle to get on base. If Mauricio has improved his pitch recognition and ability to put bat on ball in a meaningful way against breaking balls, we are looking at potential five-tool player. At this point, only time will tell.

José Butto

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (Triple-A)

2023 Season: 2 G (2 GS), 9.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, E ER (1.86 ERA), 5 BB, 8 K, .231 BABIP (Triple-A)

After struggling in his season debut, Butto settled down nicely, blanking the Rochester Red Wings for six innings, scattering a pair of hits and issuing a pair of walks. Rochester is 1-7 on the season, but the lineup Butto faced does have some legitimate hitters. Travis Blankenhorn went 0-3 against him, flying out and striking out twice against changeups down that he swung through. Matt Adams went 1-2 against him, striking out on a fastball upstairs. Chad Pinder went 0-2 with a groundout and a flyout. Kevin Plawecki went 1-2 with a groundout. Franklin Barreto went 0-2, with a flyout and a strikeout on a fastball up and in. The right-hander threw just 77 pitches, 52 for strikes, and very easily could have stayed in the game for the seventh. In 2022, Butto struggled with maintaining his effectiveness against the opposing lineup multiple times through, but did not in this instance, giving up just one hit through the second time through the order, a Plawecki line drive single in the fifth.

The right-hander got 16 swings-and-misses in total on the afternoon, with his changeup especially effective. He got all of his strikeouts on either fastballs or changeups, and Butto does indeed have one of the best, if not the best, fastball-changeup combinations in the Mets minor league system. The right-hander will have to continue developing his curveball in order to give him a legitimate third pitch and allow him to go deeper into starts with regularity. The pitch generally sits in the high-70s-to-low-80s with slight 12-6 break, getting slurvier when he does not have a great feel for it. Turning the pitch from a below-average get-me-over pitch to change the eye-level of hitters into one that can be used in any count against any hitter will be key to the right-hander’s future success.