In July 2015, the New York Mets signed 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Andres Gimenez for a $1.2 million signing bonus. This was a big signing for the Mets, as Ben Badler of Baseball America had recently ranked him as the second-best international prospect behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the time (the list omitted Cuban players).
For the young Gimenez, being signed by a major league club was the ultimate dream, having spent countless hours during his youth perfecting his craft, admiring such players as fellow countrymen Omar Vizquel and Carlos Gonzalez.
Specializing in just baseball growing up, Gimenez credits his mother and grandmother for introducing him to the sport at a young age.
Making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League on June 4, 2016, Gimenez went 1-for-4 with a grand slam in the sixth, along with two walks and five RBI. Between the Mets’ two Dominican Summer League teams, the infielder combined to hit .350/.469/.523 with 27 extra-base hits, 13 stolen bases and 52 runs scored in 62 games. Gimenez credits his early success to his composure at the plate.
“I think it was the patience, selection of good pitches, and making good contact,” he said of his 2016 campaign.
Needless to say Gimenez left a strong impression early in a league where he was 1.2 years younger than the average player. That’s nothing compared to the competition he would face in 2017, assigned to the Columbia Fireflies of the South Atlantic League, where he was 3.5 years younger than most.
Coupled with his impressive showing in extended spring training and injuries to multiple infielders on the Fireflies’ roster, the Mets assigned Gimenez to their Low-A affiliate. And just like an annual tradition, Gimenez homered in his first game of the season on April 29, a solo shot to right-center field in his first professional at-bat in the United States.
Gimenez cites mental adjustments as the biggest factor when it came to playing in the States. The then 18-year-old got off to a hot start to begin his Columbia season; batting .288 with a .356 on-base percentage through his first 17 games.
The left-handed hitter used the entire field in 2017, pulling the ball at a 37 percent clip, going the opposite way 36.6 percent of the time, and up the middle 26.4 percent. His 19.4 percent line drive rate was seventh among Columbia players with a minimum of 200 plate appearances. His 107 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) was sixth among the team with a minimum of 150 plate appearances. While his overall line of .265/.346/.349 seems underwhelming, consider the advanced metrics and his age relative to the league, which makes his appeal that much more of note.
Gimenez also joined an impressive list among Mets minor league players in 2017. Only four position players posted the following numbers last season:
- 14 or more stolen bases
- 90 or more hits
- OBP of .340 or better
And Andres Gimenez.
Gimenez is working hard this offseason, training with Mike Barwis in Port St. Lucie, and described the strength and conditioning coach as a “machine.” The 5’11” infielder appears to be in terrific physical shape, with Barwis tweeting out a picture of a lean yet sizable Gimenez, in recognition of his being named as one of Baseball America’s Top-100 prospects for 2018. When asked what he’s been working on specifically this offseason, Gimenez left no stone unturned.
“I am working on all aspects of the game to improve myself as a player every day,” he said.
Gimenez named Tomas Nido, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes, and Amed Rosario as players he has reached out to gain advice and support as he climbs up the minor league rungs. While he continues to improve on the field, another important aspect in his development is learning the English language, in which Gimenez is determined to better grasp as his journey continues in the minors.
“It is quite difficult but it is necessary to learn it,” he said. “The Mets support us and give us resources to learn English.”
For Gimenez, New York is getting closer and closer for the talented prospect, as he had the chance to visit the city briefly in 2016, when he was on hand at Citi Field during a late-September game to receive his Sterling Award for his season in the Dominican Summer League. He calls New York, “the city of my dreams,” and added that he didn’t have much time to visit during his stay.
As mentioned, Gimenez was listed among Baseball America’s Top-100 prospects this offseason, sitting at 94th as the lone Mets’ representative. I asked Gimenez if he gives any thought to such lists, and his response indicates the level of maturity he already possess, a rare feat for a 19-year-old prospect.
“I do not pay attention (to the lists). I focus on work and (to) be better than yesterday,” he said.
Gimenez spent 89 games at shortstop this season, showcasing range, quick hands, and a strong arm up the middle. He was ranked by Baseball America as the South Atlantic League’s best defensive shortstop, and among Mets’ minor leaguers, he was rated as having the best infield arm. In 48 games at short in 2016, he committed 12 errors in 403.1 innings. He committed the same amount of errors in 2017, but this time in over 350 additional innings at short.
With Amed Rosario entrenched at the number six position for the foreseeable future, it appears that Gimenez might be on the move at some point, which can only add to his versatility. A position change is something Gimenez does not shy away from.
” I have no problem changing positions,” he said. “Wherever they put me, (I) will try to do my job and give 100 percent on any side of the field.”
The future is certainly bright for Gimenez, who you can’t help but root for due to his positive work ethic and clear mindset to keep improving on the field. As Gimenez has been conditioning down in Port St. Lucie over the winter, it might be in his best interest to get himself acquainted to the area, as he’ll likely open the season with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League.
Amed Rosario took a similar path in his development in the minors, playing his first season in rookie ball (Gimenez played in foreign rookie ball) and starting the season with the St. Lucie Mets in his third professional season, also at the age of 19.
The maturity factor, coupled with his range and strong arm at short, and advanced plate discipline are all enticing attributes for the organization’s top prospect. With the added name recognition that comes from being recognized as one of the best minor leaguers in the game, it’ll be interesting to see how Gimenez takes to the added pressure of living up the billing. If his work ethic and levelheadedness have any say in the matter, I believe Gimenez will continue to impress and further open up eyes in the Mets’ organization.
Follow Andres Gimenez on Twitter: @A2go_04.