Infielder Luis Guillorme knows that his defensive prowess is and has been his major calling card when evaluating his overall game. The 23-year-old Florida native has dazzled in the minor leagues, showcasing his soft hands, range, and effortless play at both second base and shortstop.
For the middle infielder, maintaining a consistent approach at the plate, which includes continuing to get on-base at a high clip along with driving the ball more, was at the forefront for his offseason workouts.
With a career .361 on-base percentage over five minor league seasons, Guillorme notes how it’s his job to get on-base, and more specifically, get to second base. The way Guillorme looks at his job is this: being able to get on-base at a high rate by practicing patience but also waiting for that one pitch to drive. If he walks or hits a single, his job isn’t complete until he gets into scoring position, which means not being afraid of trying to steal a base.
Speed is an element Guillorme is trying to incorporate more into his overall game. After swiping a career best 18 bags in 2015 while with Savannah, Guillorme’s seen his stolen base total fall to four each of his last two seasons. It’s evident that Guillorme has been working to improve on his reads and jumps off first this spring, highlighted by his three stolen base attempts. While he’s been caught in all three tries, the fact that he’s been putting in the effort and making adjustments during games that don’t count is promising for his young, burgeoning career.
With the launch angle revolution that’s taking place in Major League Baseball, Guillorme understands the importance of hitting the ball in the air, but cautions that he’s looking more into waiting for his pitch and driving the ball into the gaps. With Double-A Binghamton last year, Guillorme did lower his ground ball percentage from a career high 68 percent in 2015 to 56.2 percent, and saw his fly ball percentage increase from 12.8 percent in 2015 to 20.3 percent in 2016 and 23.9 percent in 2017.
In the Eastern League last season, Guillorme was the toughest hitter to strike out, as evidenced by his 72 walks to 55 strikeouts. His walk total was the 2nd best in the Eastern League behind only Mike Ford (76), and his .376 on-base percentage was sixth best in the league.
Among all Mets minor leaguers last season, Guillorme was the only player to accomplish the following:
- Collect 125 or more hits
- Post an OBP of .375 or higher
- Have more walks than strikeouts
Guillorme was added to the Mets 40-man roster this past offseason, instead of exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft. While his defense is major league ready, the Mets are hoping he can show some consistency with extra-base power. Showing up to camp with considerably more muscle, Guillorme credits work with Mike Barwis in helping him increase strength, and hopes that it translates into a bit more power this season.
Prior to Saturday’s game (March 17) against the Washington Nationals, Guillorme had collected 10 hits, two of which have come for extra-bases (home run, double). He continues to showcase his excellent approach at the plate, leading the club with eight walks and posting a robust .439 on-base percentage.
Guillorme is expected to open the season in Triple-A Las Vegas, a hitter’s haven. With Asdrubal Cabrera signed for only one more season, Guillorme could have the inside track to second base by 2019, and should get his first big league action at some point during the 2018 season.
I had the privilege of speaking to Guillorme in mid-March, where we discussed how he’s always excelled at defense, getting drafted by the Mets in 2013, and of course, the one-handed catch of Adeiny Hechavarria‘s bat last spring.
MMO: Who were some of your favorite players growing up?
Guillorme: The one guy I always looked up to was Omar Vizquel. If you’ve seen the way I play you can tell I kind of model my game after him.
MMO: Did you always play middle infield growing up?
Guillorme: Yeah, I always played shortstop. I didn’t really start playing second base until high school for travel ball. Me and my best friend both played short for different high schools, but we played summer ball and we’d switch on and off every game. So that’s really the only time I got exposed to second before pro ball.
MMO: You were born in Venezuela, when did you come to the states?
Guillorme: I was born over there and moved here when I was 12-years-old.
MMO: What was the transition like for you moving from Venezuela to the United States as a young teen?
Guillorme: It wasn’t that big of a transition, I’ve always had family that lived here. I’d come here once or twice a year, every year. So for me, it wasn’t that big of a difference, honestly.
MMO: Obviously your calling card has been your defense, was that something you always excelled at? Were there certain drills you worked on specifically growing up to hone your skills?
Guillorme: Defense has always been the main part of my game. And to be honest, there weren’t that many drills that I did. Growing up in Venezuela it was tough to go play outside, it was a little dangerous, so in my house I had a room with pretty much no furniture in it. That was my playroom and all I would do is throw a ball against the wall and just see how quick I could get it out of my hand. That’s what I would do all day.
MMO: Prior to the 2013 MLB Draft, were you aware of the Mets’ interest in you before being selected in the tenth-round?
Guillorme: Well yeah, throughout the season there were a lot of scouts there. Some scouts I would see more than others. The Mets’ guy was one of the guys that really talked to me – Mike Silvestri. So I knew there was interest there.
MMO: Last spring you made heads turn with your one-handed catch of Adeiny Hechavarria’s bat that went flying into the Mets dugout. What was going through your mind at that moment?
Guillorme: Well for me I was really just trying to stop the bat. I saw it coming the whole way and once it hit my hand it was just kind of like a reaction. My hand just closed and I caught it.
MMO: That play must’ve stayed with you throughout the whole season.
Guillorme: Yeah, no matter what city I was playing in people were talking about it.
MMO: You spoke of playing second base a bit during high school. The Mets started playing you there some starting in the 2016 season, when you were playing alongside Amed Rosario in St. Lucie. Last year with Binghamton you split time between short and second; how has the transition back to second base been for you?
Guillorme: It was pretty seamless, it was easy. It was really like riding a bike except taking a couple of ground balls, a couple of turns, and it was back to it.
MMO: Do you have a preference of where you play?
Guillorme: I mean, I’m fine with either one. Growing up playing short was my favorite position to play, but either way I like both of them.
MMO: You were statistically the toughest hitter to strike out in the Eastern League last year, what’s your approach like at the plate?
Guillorme: The way I am and the way my job should be for a team is: my job is to get on-base, and get to second base. Whether it’s a walk and a steal, a double, anything like that. So for me I’m always looking for that one pitch to drive and getting in good counts.
Some days it might be the first pitch other days it might be the last pitch of the at-bat. I just try to get to that one pitch that I can drive. Besides that you get to two strikes it’s just time to battle, you know? Put the ball in play, and expand your zone a little.
MMO: I read that you were working in the offseason on trying to lift the ball more, are you trying to elevate and launch for more extra-base hits?
Guillorme: I wouldn’t say so much of putting the ball in the air as much as really driving it, you know? Just trying to get that good pitch and drive it to the gaps. Which, like I said, to get to second base the easiest way is by hitting a double.
MMO: You also worked with Mike Barwis in the offseason, was there anything specific you two looked to improve upon for this coming season?
Guillorme: I’ve been working out with him since my second year of pro ball, so this is my fourth year with him. I think it’s shown that every year I’ve come a little stronger and every year I’ve gotten better in the physical side of the ball. I’m going to keep doing it and I really like working with Mike.
MMO: During the 2017 season, were you ever thinking about having to be added to the Mets 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 Draft? And what were your initial reactions when you heard that you were added?
Guillorme: During the season I don’t think you think about that. For me, in-season I only think about the games; everything off the field just doesn’t matter. It’s great and awesome that I got put on and it’s a great achievement, honestly, just to be put on the roster.
MMO: Have any veterans in camp taken you under their wing this spring?
Guillorme: Our clubhouse is amazing. The veteran guys are always there to help you, they don’t try to big time you or anything. They’re there for you if you want to ask them something. Every guy up there has said something to me, talking here and there, so you just talk to everyone around the clubhouse. I wouldn’t say one particular guy has been helping me out.
MMO: Every player in spring – whether it’s a ten-year veteran or rookie looking to make an impression – has an approach to their at-bats. I’m curious as to what you specifically look for in your spring at-bats, and how can properly rate your success?
Guillorme: For me it’s being consistent on both sides of the ball; with defense and offense. Repeating the same swing every time and making the routine plays. So that’s really all I’ve been working on this offseason and in spring it’s just being consistent with everything I do on the baseball field.
MMO: Thanks for your time, Luis. All the best this coming season.
Guillorme: Thank you. No problem, anytime.
Follow Luis Guillorme on Twitter, @lguillorme13