In February 2019 — approximately three decades ago in COVID years — a scout offered this anonymous projection of young Mets infielder Andres Gimenez:
“To me, he’s more of a reserve guy. He doesn’t do anything outstanding. The one thing that separates him might be consistency, and he makes contact. But [Amed] Rosario gives you a plus arm, and he’s a plus runner.”
After watching Gimenez execute a friendly coup of the Mets’ shortstop position this 2020 season, at the expense of Amed Rosario, I checked back in with the scout on Tuesday. Sure enough, the 22-year-old has upgraded his stock in the eyes of this one veteran talent evaluator.
“I could see him playing every day. And he’s a young kid,” the scout said. “I always saw him as an extra guy because I didn’t see the plus stuff. But now you watch him more, and he’s maturing and he looks like he could handle himself playing everyday.
“He’s not going to be a star. He’s going to be a piece of the puzzle.”
In modern baseball, you want myriad puzzle pieces, which leads to depth, which is why I certainly don’t think the Mets should give up on Rosario. The 24-year-old, righty-swinging Rosario started at shortstop Tuesday against Orioles lefty John Means, his first start since Sept. 3, as Gimenez slid over to second base.
Rosario brought a lowly .229/.250/.349 slash line into Tuesday’s action, trailing Gimenez and his .293/.344/.402 by a considerable margin. Yet consider that his 70-game breakout (.319/.351/.453 with improved defense) to conclude last year will constitute a larger sample size than whatever he does in this regular season.
Then again, if Steve Cohen completes his purchase of the team and immediately includes Rosario in a trade package to land Francisco Lindor from the Indians — and then signs Lindor to a nine-figure extension, that could work, too. And Gimenez still could own a role as a versatile contributor.
“You know what he is? He’s a baseball player,” the scout said. “He has the intangibles. He knows how to play the game. He does the right thing at the right time.”
Seems like a sound characterization based on what Gimenez has shown in his rookie season. In Monday’s 10-inning, 9-8 loss to the Phillies, Gimenez made three outstanding plays at shortstop, including a leap to grab Phil Gosselin’s third-inning line drive and a dive to his left to snare Rhys Hoskins’ fourth-inning grounder up the middle followed by a quick rise and throw.
“I think when it comes to those plays, it’s really the anticipation of the situation,” Gimenez said Tuesday through an interpreter. “Sometimes you have to take into account how fast the hitter is running. You have to see how fast he is. It’s really the anticipation and preparation going into those plays.”
Mets manager Luis Rojas refused to say that he was treating the shortstop position as a platoon, instead contending, “I’m not seeing it as that. We’re putting together the best lineup each day.” He then pointed out that, against Means, he wasn’t starting Robinson Cano, Brandon Nimmo or Dom Smith … all of whom hit lefty. When you platoon, you give yourself the best lineup each day regardless of prior allegiances.
In any case, Gimenez has earned regular playing time for the moment, his external support coalescing in at least one instance.
“I think I’ve progressed in all facets of the game,” Gimenez said. “Physically I have, obviously, but also my skills have been more refined, and I think that’s what helped me be more successful now.”
That success has given the Mets one less headache amidst a season full of them.