QUEENS — Ronny Mauricio hits the ball so hard that New York Mets manager Buck Showalter fears for the safety of his players when he’s at-bat.
“I’ve already warned everybody that a cutter in. a splitter, or something soft where he’s out in front, you have to be on your toes in the dugout,” the skipper said. “He’s going to clear it out. You’re probably not going to have a lot of time to react. So that was my head’s up to everybody.”
Granted, Mauricio’s bat presents a much larger threat to the opposing pitcher and defense out in the field when he’s in the box because the 22-year-old switch-hitter is already beginning to make a name for himself as an imposing presence.
On Tuesday night at Citi Field during the Mets’ 7-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the organization’s No. 4 ranked prospect obliterated his first career home run, annihilating a Ryne Nelson fastball that left his bat at 112.4 mph and traveled an estimated 440 feet.
“It’s great when you square up a ball like that,” Mauricio said through a translator. “You know it’s going to go far when you feel it off the bat.”
This has become something of the norm since the Mets finally made the decision to call Mauricio up to the majors on Sept. 1 — a move that was considered a long time coming considering how the infielder terrorized Triple-A this season with an .852 OPS, 23 home runs, 71 RBI, and 24 stolen bases in 116 games.
Over his first 10 games in the majors, Mauricio is batting .306, garnering 11 hits in his first 36 big-league at-bats. Those 11 hits have an average exit velocity of 102.2 mph. Seven of those hits have eclipsed the 100 mph mark and four of those have gone over 110 mph, including his first-career hit — a 117.3 mph double against the Seattle Mariners in his debut.
“I feel good. I feel comfortable,” Mauricio said. “It’s all about preparation… that’s been the biggest key for me… I think I’ve been preparing myself all year in Triple-A. I knew at some point, I’d be up here. So it’s one of those things where I feel like I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for so long.”
What was broadcast by general manager Billy Eppler as the shortcomings that kept Mauricio down in the minors for so long hasn’t provided much of an issue so far, either. His defense at second base has been serviceable, though Showalter is champing at the bit to get the youngster time at third base and in the outfield to test his versatility — something the organization has preached for Mauricio.
His plate discipline also has not been an albatross, yet. His strikeout rate of 21.1% is currently below the league average.
It’s still a limited sample size, obviously, but the early returns have been more than promising for a young talent that is expected to be the first of an incoming wave of prospects to supplement a contending team over the next five years.
“What can I say? I expect a lot out of myself,” Mauricio said. “I know that I’m a good ballplayer. I expect it.”