ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Mets are about to make a significant, long-awaited move for their future.
Late Wednesday night, the team informed No. 4 prospect Ronny Mauricio that it will call him up to the Majors before Friday’s series opener against the Mariners, according to multiple sources briefed on the situation. Mauricio, 22, slashed .292/.346/.506 with 23 home runs over 116 games at Triple-A Syracuse, including an opposite-field, two-run shot on Tuesday.
The Mets have not confirmed the move.
Asked before that game what a call-up down the stretch would mean to him, Mauricio replied: “It would mean the world to me. It’s my dream to play Major League Baseball.”
For much of this season, the Mets resisted calling up Mauricio despite his gaudy numbers. Offensively, the team wanted to see a more consistent plate approach from him. Defensively, the club hoped to give Mauricio more seasoning at second base, which he just began playing this season.
“It’s been difficult, because I only played shortstop [earlier],” Mauricio said through an interpreter this week at Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley. “So to try new positions at this level and not really knowing what to do has been a little frustrating. But just learning and getting better as the season goes on, it feels like I’m making strides toward the right direction.
“I’m trying to learn things on the fly. I feel like I’m doing a good job, but it’s a learning process.”
Mauricio’s inexperience at second was largely the organization’s doing; although the Mets signed shortstop Francisco Lindor to a 10-year contract extension before the 2021 season, they waited more than two years before asking their fourth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline to move off shortstop in Minor League games. By that point, he was already knocking on the door of the big leagues.
That, according to general manager Billy Eppler, was largely by design.
“When players are going to move levels, you want to try to give some comfort before introducing new variables,” Eppler said on Tuesday, citing the more advanced pitchers at Triple-A, the automated ball-strike system and other factors. “We wanted to get him comfortable hitting. He was jumping to a new level and needed to still declare himself as what type of hitter he was ultimately going to be.”
The Mets have little doubt of that now, just as they have been pleased with his progress at the plate. When Mauricio walked multiple times last week in a win over Buffalo, averaging five pitches per plate appearance on the night, Brett Baty sought him out in the postgame clubhouse to congratulate his longtime teammate.
“He’s starting to understand you can’t hit every single pitch,” Baty said. “I know there are outliers like Elly De La Cruz hitting balls at his head over the fence and stuff, and [Mauricio] does that, too. But what he did in that game, I told him, ‘Dude, you had an approach, you stuck to it, you looked calm the entire way. … That’s the stuff that’s going to get you to the big leagues.’”
In Spring Training, it seemed inevitable that the Mets would promote each of their top four position-player prospects — Francisco Alvarez, Baty, Mauricio and Mark Vientos — sooner rather than later. Alvarez and Baty made it in April. Vientos was there by May. Only Mauricio, who opened eyes back in Spring Training with a series of majestic homers, has yet to debut.
With rosters expanding on Friday, Mets officials decided the time to make that move was now. It’s not yet clear if Mauricio will play second base in the Majors and shift Jeff McNeil to a corner outfield spot, but that would be the most sensible alignment considering Mauricio’s recent run of play there in the Minors. Ultimately, the Mets view Mauricio as a versatile player in the mold of Ben Zobrist or Kiké Hernández, capable of playing second, third, shortstop and the outfield.
For now, however, the team is unlikely to burden him with those concerns. They first want to see how Mauricio acclimates to the highest level of professional baseball.
“I’m just working hard every day,” Mauricio said the day before receiving the news. “I’m going to keep playing every day until they call me up.”