Mets infielder Ronny Mauricio has a torn ACL in his right knee and will require surgery, reports Andy Martino of SNY. A timeline for his recovery hasn’t been publicly reported but he’s likely to miss a notable amount of the upcoming campaign. Martino reported last night that Mauricio suffered the injury while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Mauricio, 23 in April, made his major league debut as a September call-up a few months ago. He hit just .248/.296/.347 in his first taste of the big leagues, but in a small sample of just 26 games. He has been considered one of the top 100 prospects in the league for years, hitting 20 homers in the minors in each of the past three years. He also has some speed, stealing 24 bags in the minors this year and another seven in the majors.
He’s generally considered to be a passable shortstop but the Mets have moved him elsewhere due to their specific circumstances. Francisco Lindor is under contract through 2031 and is still considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, so the club has had Mauricio line up at second base, third base and left field.
Just last week, president of baseball operations David Stearns said that the club would stick with internal options for third base, with Mauricio set to compete with Brett Baty and Mark Vientos for playing time there. None of those three players have established themselves as viable big leaguers yet, but the club was seemingly content to go into 2024 hoping that one of them would pull away from the other two.
Now that calculation could change in light of this new development. It’s still unclear how long the club expects Mauricio to be out, but it will likely be the majority of the upcoming season. For reference, Rhys Hoskins tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Spring Training earlier this year and still wasn’t able to rejoin the Phillies by the time they were eliminated in the NLCS in late October. Mauricio will have a few extra months on Hoskins since his injury occurred in December, but he’s still probably looking at a late-season return in a best-case scenario.
That will leave the club with Baty and Vientos as their third base options in the short term. Baty was also a top 100 prospect on his way up to the majors but has underwhelmed in the majors thus far, having hit .210/.272/.325 in his first 431 plate appearances with subpar defense. Vientos is fairly similar, with a line of .205/.255/.354 in 274 plate appearances at the big league level.
The club has added some infield depth by signing Joey Wendle to a major league deal and claiming Zack Short off waivers from the Tigers. Martino suggests the club is likely to add some extra insurance at the hot corner and floats Justin Turner as a speculative fit. It may be a bit of a tricky calculus as they won’t want to completely cut off Baty, Vientos or Mauricio from playing time throughout the year. Each has performed extremely well in the minors and the club is planning a sort of transition year in 2024, making it the perfect time to give some rope to such players. The injury to Mauricio will obviously lessen his ability to take advantage of those circumstances in the coming campaign but the Mets might still want to see if either Baty or Vientos can run with the third base job.
That makes this the second straight offseason wherein the Mets are potentially losing a player for the entirety of the upcoming campaign due to a knee injury. Closer Edwin Díaz required surgery on his patellar tendon back in the spring after injuring himself during the World Baseball Classic. He attempted to rehab throughout 2023 but pumped the brakes on that when the club fell out of contention, eventually sitting out the entire season.