MLB sources explain why Luis Guillorme could play significant role for Mets in 2021

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John Harper
·5 min read
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Mets' Luis Guillorme backhands a groundball in spring training
Mets' Luis Guillorme backhands a groundball in spring training

Luis Guillorme is making the case that he should play a significant role this season, especially since Mets brass has acknowledged the need to improve defensively as it goes about trying to build a championship-caliber team.

And Guillorme's epic 22-pitch plate appearance against Jordan Hicks on Sunday was a reminder of what the 26-year-old infielder brings to the table on the offensive side.

J.D. Davis is slotted in as the regular at third, and while his bat should be an important weapon, his defense figures to be costly at times. Thus Guillorme is a tempting option, especially behind ground-ball pitchers such as Marcus Stroman and David Peterson.

“Guillorme is an interesting guy,” was the way one scout put it. “Great hands. Limited range but a quick first step and smooth transfer makes him a good fit at third base. He’ll help you win games with his glove and then the question is how much will he hit.

“Davis has more pop but Guillorme is a tough out and he showed signs last year that he can do more than just put the ball in play. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that third base situation shakes out for them.”

In a utility role last season, Guillorme hit .333 with a .425 on-base percentage in 68 plate appearances. Though he didn’t hit any home runs, his six doubles and .865 OPS were evidence to the Mets that he was becoming more of an impact hitter.

Former ’86 Met Tim Teufel, now the organization’s roving infield instructor, has observed and worked with Guillorme since the team drafted him out of a Florida high school as their 10th-round pick in 2013, and he believes the left-handed hitter could be coming of age.

“I’ve seen the growth in him offensively,” Teufel said by phone. “He’s always been a very good contact hitter who’s able to get the barrel on the ball and doesn’t strike out a lot. Sometimes those types of guys bloom late.

“He used to be more of a slap hitter but last year (hitting instructor) Chili Davis had him looking to be more aggressive on pitches he could pull and he started driving the ball more. He’ll always be able to shoot the ball to left field but if he can get aggressive and pull the inside pitch, there might be a lot more in the tank with him.

“I’m not saying he’s Daniel Murphy, but Murph was a high-contact guy and nobody saw him blossoming into more of a power hitter the way he did. That’s why you don’t put a limit on guys who can make contact and barrel the ball. That’s a special trait.”

What has always been most special about Guillorme, though, is his ability to make plays with the glove, whether at shortstop, second base or third. Mets’ VP of amateur scouting, Tommy Tanous, recalls being instantly wowed upon seeing him play in high school.

“It took about five seconds to realize, ‘holy cow, this kid can handle the glove,’“ Tanous said by phone. “He’s got elite hands, like a Javy Baez or a Jose Iglesias.”

Guillorme made an indelible impression with those hands before fans had ever seen him play, when he famously -- and casually -- reached up from his perch along the dugout fence to snatch a flying bat out of the air in spring training of 2017, while other players scrambled out of the way after the Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria had lost his grip swinging at a pitch.

Calling the game on TV at the time, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez reacted in disbelief at Guillorme’s nonchalant one-handed grab as the bat sailed just to right of his head.

“Who is that?” Darling wanted to know.

“I’ve never seen that,” Hernandez added in amazement.

Tanous wasn’t in Port St. Lucie that day but the moment became practically legendary within the Mets organization, so much so that the long-time scout cut me off instantly when I began to ask if he’d seen the time…

“When he caught the bat?” Tanous said with a laugh. “Yeah, that was something. That’s how sure-handed he is. When it comes to catching things, everything moves in slow motion to him.”

As such there always figured to be a role in the big leagues for Guillorme at least as a utility infielder. And that’s what he’s done here and there, mostly filling in for injuries since 2018. But he didn’t make a strong impression until last year when, as Teufel saw it, he began to understand the work ethic it took to be ready at the major league level.

“To me his maturity isn’t just at the plate but with his attitude,” Teufel said. “He’s learned what it takes to stay in the big leagues. In the minors we had to push him a little bit but I think that’s all behind him.

“(Infield coach) Gary DiSarcina has done some great work with Luis, getting him to practice with a purpose and with a little more urgency. As a role player you need those practice habits to stay sharp and he does that now. He could be a valuable guy in whatever role he’s used this year.”

The extent of that role could depend on just how much the Mets follow through on their stated desire to make defense more of a priority. They know Guillorme, at age 26, will be an asset with the glove, and perhaps the bat as well.

Weighing that against what Davis can provide offensively should make for, as the scout put it, some interesting decision-making.