With three home runs early in spring training, Ronny Mauricio is demanding the Mets take notice, especially coming on the heels of earning MVP honors in the Dominican Republic Winter League. But his lack of plate discipline so far as a minor leaguer tempers optimism about his future, at least to some degree.
And as a shortstop, he’s blocked by Francisco Lindoralthough Mauricio may be outgrowing his natural position anyway, as he is beginning to resemble a young man Jordan Alvarez in terms of body type — at 6-foot-3 and easily over 200 pounds by now.
So how good can he be and what’s his future with the Mets as he turns 22 in April?
I asked three scouts who have seen him in the minors and, perhaps most notably, all of them see potential for greatness, but none of them feel strongly at this point that he’ll reach his full potential and become an All-Star level big leaguer.
“He’s obviously trending in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of unknown about what kind of hitter he can be,” said one scout. “He’s growing into a power hitter, but he’s also been a guy who chases out of the strike zone too much in the minors, especially on balls down, and doesn’t recognize spin very well. He needs to show growth in that area to have a future as an impact hitter at the highest level.
“This year should tell a lot about him. What he did in the winter league might be an indication he is showing that kind of growth, but I need to see it in Triple-A this year.
“Defensively he’s athletic enough with a strong arm, but doesn’t have the good feet or great range you want in a big league shortstop. If he hits enough a team might live with him at short, at least while he’s young, so the Mets will have to decide if he has more value as a trade chip or someone they keep and move to another position, maybe third base or left field.”
All the scouts agreed Mauricio’s salary discipline is the key issue. That’s reflected in his stats from the last couple of minor league seasons, Class A Brooklyn in 2021 and Double-A Binghamton in 2022, as his on-base percentage was a glaringly low .296 both years, despite hitting for a respectable .259 batting average in last season.
The problem was that he walked only 24 times in 541 plate appearances last season, while racking up 125 strikeouts.
“That’s about being unable to recognize and lay off breaking stuff out of the zone,” a second scout said. “That usually improves for young hitters as they see more pitching and begin to mature, and it will have to for him because the higher he goes, the more pitchers will zero in on his weaknesses.”
Even with the plate discipline issues, the switch-hitting Mauricio hit 26 home runs in 123 games last season, and the bombs he hit in spring training are evidence as to just how much power he has, especially as a left-handed hitter.
“The good news is he’s got the tools and the power is real as he continues to fill out that big (6-foot-3) frame,” was the way the second scout put it. “You can definitely dream of him becoming a monster if he can become more selective and get better against breaking stuff.”
A third scout said he considers this a “huge” year for Mauricio in terms of coming of age, overall as well as at the plate.
“There have been some questions about his maturity, his work ethic,” the scout said. “I’ve never heard that Ronny’s a bad kid or anything like that, but he got a big bonus (signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 for $2.1 million) and when kids sign at a young age, sometimes it takes a while for them to understand the kind of work it takes to make it to the big leagues.
“He’s still young, but he’s been in the minors since he was 17. This will be a year when the Mets are going to expect to see the light go on for him at the plate so that he doesn’t chase as much. The home runs he’s hitting so far in spring training may or may not mean much, because it’s so early, but it puts him under the spotlight a little more.”
As for Mauricio’s long-range future with the Mets, all the scouts agreed that Brett Baty is much more of a sure thing as a hitter and likely to make an impact for Buck Showalter‘s club at some point this season.
Perhaps that means it would make sense to move Mauricio to left field, a position that could be open in 2024 after Mark Canha‘s contract runs out this year.
“I could see him in left field, but my gut tells me it’s more likely the Mets will trade him at some point,” one scout said. “He could force their hand, though, if he keeps hitting the ball out of the park. No doubt about that.”