Can Luisangel Acuña Fill the Shoes of Ronny Mauricio in 2024?

With Ronny Mauricio likely sidelined for the season, could Luisangel Acuña fill a similar super utility role for the New York Mets in 2024?

FRISCO, TEXAS - JULY 08: Luisangel Acuna #3 of the Frisco RoughRiders bats during the game against the Midland RockHounds at Riders Field on July 08, 2023 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

After a brief major league debut in 2023, Ronny Mauricio was poised to have an impact in a utility role for the 2024 Mets. Following a torn ACL that he suffered during Dominican Winter League play, though, Mauricio is expected to miss the entire season. 

That puts the Mets in a really tough position to fill his role.

As JustBaseball’s own Ryan Finkelstein put it on the February 2 episode of Locked On Mets, “it’s devastating for the Mets… just for his development alone.”

Had Mauricio developed into a more polished player if he was healthy in 2024, he could have become an everyday player for a Mets team in desperate need of a spark in the lineup. 

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Ryan continues, “Now there’s also the fact that he is a player that could have really helped answer a lot of questions for this team.” 

The most important thing, as Ryan explains, is that Mauricio would have provided flexibility and insurance at six positions: second base, which would move Jeff McNeil to the outfield and consequently cover three positions there; third base in the case that Brett Baty underwhelms yet again; and shortstop in the event of a Francisco Lindor injury. 

With Mauricio out of the picture now, who else can provide such value? Joey Wendle? That would be far from ideal. Wendle pales in comparison to Mauricio’s power, speed, baserunning ability, and in pretty much every other facet of the game. 

That begs a really important question: can Luisangel Acuña come in at some point in 2024 to provide the same positional flexibility, while being a similar type of sparkplug like Mauricio would have been? 

Acuña won’t start the year in the big leagues and there are rightfully questions about whether he’d be ready to produce at that level at all this year.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old saw his play drop off drastically after the Mets acquired him, seeing his OPS plummet from .830 with Double-A Frisco (Rangers) to .622 with Double-A Binghamton (Mets). 

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Ryan explains, though, why this shouldn’t be cause for too much concern. In addition to the natural adjustment of being traded, “his walk rate and his strikeout rate were identical, basically. About 9% at each stop when it came to the walk rate, about 18% on the strikeout rate.”

Acuña remaining consistent with taking walks and putting bat on the ball, even during a very poor stretch, is an encouraging sign. If Acuña can hit for a high enough average and keep his walk rate up, he should become a valuable major leaguer based on that alone. As Ryan puts it, “he doesn’t need to be a power guy. That’s not his game. For Acuña, it is speed and defense.” 

Getting on base a ton by walking and hitting for a high average will naturally allow Acuña to utilize his elite speed. “If he’s getting on base over 150 times in a season, there’s a good chance that this guy can steal upwards of 50, 60 bags… That’s where he’s going to provide his offensive value.” 

Ryan continues, “his floor is high enough with the defense and the speed, but really the tool that’s going to make or break him in his big league career, in my opinion, is simply that hit tool.” The difference between hitting, for example, .240 and .300 is massive for a guy like Acuña who needs to get on base consistently in order to create runs and maximize his value. 

The problem with Acuña right now is that if he is called up to the major league roster at some point in 2024, he doesn’t yet have the kind of experience that he likely needs in order to be a good major league hitter. He has yet to play a game at the Triple-A level, whereas Ronny Mauricio played in 116 games in Triple-A in 2023. 

But if Acuña can prove in the early part of 2024 that he’s improved greatly from his end-of-season struggles, he can do exactly what Mauricio would have done for the 2024 Mets, which is provide insurance at several positions. 

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There are no guarantees that any of Brett Baty, Mark Vientos, or Joey Wendle will be able to hold down third base this year. If Acuña is producing, especially at the Triple-A level, he could absolutely take on that role. Ryan likens this scenario to what we have seen from Luis Guillorme in past years: a plus defensive shortstop who played some third base and handled it without much difficulty. 

If perhaps there is an injury in the outfield, Acuña could slide in at second where he would provide elite defense, which would then move Jeff McNeil to the outfield. Or he could even take over at center field if need be, should Brandon Nimmo and Harrison Bader both be unable to play. 

There will certainly be injuries to the Mets roster in 2024, as there are every year. With Acuña already being on the 40-man roster, the chances are high that he reaches the majors at some point during the upcoming season. 

Ryan makes a good point that the Mets have another highly-touted prospect with his eyes set on reaching the majors in 2024 in Drew Gilbert. Gilbert may even be more ready for the big leagues than Acuña is at this stage. But Gilbert can’t play the infield. He doesn’t have the speed and baserunning ability that Acuña does. And he’s not currently on the 40-man roster.

All signs point to Acuña reaching The Show first. 

He may not be as experienced or as offensively gifted as Ronny Mauricio is. There will certainly be doubts about whether he is ready to produce at the major league level. But with the chances being likely that he reaches the majors in 2024 anyway, Acuña is the most natural option to fulfill a super-utility role for the Mets.

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