Though slumping, Luis Guillorme has earned a role on the Mets. His role has evolved, and it probably is not finished evolving.
The slick-gloved infielder began the season as a bench bat and, amid injuries beginning in mid-May, was forced into an everyday job at second base, third or occasionally shortstop.
He responded with immediate and unique excellence at the plate — there are few in today’s game who slap-hit like him — and a steady glove that astounds regardless of what position he plays.
“Luis has been great,” Buck Showalter said this weekend in Miami, a series that was highlighted by Guillorme’s all-out dive Sunday to steal a hit from Jesus Aguilar that was heading into right field. “He makes a play a night.”
As Jeff McNeil is expected to return Tuesday, the question will become whether Guillorme is relegated back to the bench or whether he has earned, at the very least, a consistent part-time job — perhaps at the expense of Eduardo Escobar.
If McNeil and Francisco Lindor are healthy, they will play every day. McNeil has played left and given Mark Canha occasional days off against righty starting pitchers, but Canha has hit righties well.
The hole has been at third base, where the switch-hitting Escobar has struggled mightily against righties (.583 OPS). As reliable as lefty-hitting Guillorme has been, he still has not hit lefties (.612 OPS).
Does the best version of the Mets include a third-base platoon? Showalter will begin to tip his hand Tuesday, when the Mets host the Astros and lefty Framber Valdez.
Regardless of the exact role, Guillorme, who only started six games in April, has played himself into what Showalter has called a “regular irregular.” Known for his hands and glove his first four seasons, his bat has been a pleasant surprise — if a recently declining one — this year.
Guillorme has hit just one home run but has been superb at putting his bat on the ball, with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (22). The contact-oriented approach helped him finish May with a .365 batting average that was impossible to put back on the bench.
In 19 June games, though, Guillorme has found more gloves, and a 15-for-65 month has brought the average down to .307 — which still would have finished this weekend as the ninth-best in the NL if Guillorme had enough at-bats to qualify.
He has not taken the frustrations to the field with him.
“If I can’t contribute on one side of the ball, I’m going to try to contribute on the other,” Guillorme said. “If I can’t get a hit, nobody else can get a hit. That’s the way I look at it.”
His catch to steal a hit from Aguilar was the most miraculous of a weekend in which he played second base, but there were several to choose from, including a smooth double play he jump-started by ranging to his left and a nice backhanded stab sprinting to his right.
Despite logging fewer infield innings than Lindor, Escobar, McNeil and Pete Alonso, Guillorme has been the Mets’ best-rated defensive infielder according to Outs Above Average, which is a cumulative measurement.
Showalter recently campaigned for the All-Star voting to add a utility spot so Guillorme, whose name cannot be found on the ballot, could see his play be recognized. Guillorme agreed with the sentiment — “There’s a lot of utilities on a lot of teams,” he said — and appreciated hearing it from his manager.
“It’s great,” Guillorme said in Miami. “He’s given me the vote of confidence. He’s thrown me out there. He’s letting me play.
“I couldn’t be any happier.”
The 27-year-old pointed to his consistent reps that have helped his timing and led to his breakout season. But he has found consistent time because of various ailments that have taken McNeil, Lindor, Escobar, Starling Marte and Brandon Nimmo off the field. With McNeil expected to return from right hamstring tightness Tuesday, there appears to be no hole for Guillorme to regularly fill.
Unless the Mets see a third-base platoon and fewer games for Escobar as the best path forward.
— Additional reporting by Mike Puma