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Andrés Giménez has big shoes to fill in Cleveland

Giménez will need to build off a solid if unspectacular rookie season

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of the four players shipped to Cleveland in the blockbuster deal that saw Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco traded to the New York Mets, Andrés Giménez would seem to be the prize. Mets team president Sandy Alderson even confirmed as much, telling reporters that the shortstop was “central to Cleveland’s interest in making a deal.”

Although I think we can all agree that the opportunity to provide much-needed financial relief for down-on-his-luck team owner Paul Dolan was more central to Cleveland’s interest in making a deal, I’ll concede that acquiring Giménez was probably a close second.

So what is Andrés Giménez bringing to Cleveland?

Giménez was 16 years old when the Mets signed him as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2015. He made his professional debut in 2016 with the Dominican Summer League Mets, producing a .350/.469/.523 slash line with three home runs. That was far and away his best season in the Mets organization. His career numbers after five seasons in their minor league system, from Class-A Columbia to Double-A Binghamton, were .278/.309/.387.

In 2019, his last minor league season before getting called up to the big leagues, Giménez experimented with a revamped swing. Previously known for wielding a compact swing that sprayed line drives to all areas of the field, he added a bit more loft to it with the intention of pulling the ball more and adding more power to his offensive skill set. While his nine home runs were a single-season career-high, Giménez posted single-season career lows in BA (.250) and OBP (.309) and a career-high strikeout percentage (21.3%).

That said, FanGraphs ranked Giménez as the Mets’ No. 2 prospect ahead of last season. This was their take on his potential in January of last year:

Defensively, at either short or second, Gimenez’s wide array of skills, especially his range (it’s less important than it used to be because of improved positioning, but Gimenez can really go get it) is going to make him a strong middle infield defender.

On offense, even though Gimenez spent 2019 all the way up at Double-A Binghamton, things are less clear. He looked physically overmatched against Double-A pitching, which is fine because he was only 20, but he was also chasing a lot and seemed doomed if he fell behind in counts because of it. The all-fields spray (lots of oppo doubles) that comes when Gimenez targets more hittable pitches is very promising. We’re not optimistic that any kind of impact power will ever come (he’ll golf one out to his pull side once in a while), but the hit tool and doubles would be plenty to profile everyday on the middle infield if Gimenez learns to be more selective.

Giménez was on the Mets’ Opening Day roster in 2020 and made his first start on July 29, 2020. Amed Rosario, also now a member of the Cleveland organization, opened the season as the starting shortstop before Giménez eventually usurped the role by season’s end. Through 49 games, the rookie slashed .263/.333/.398 with three home runs. In their end-of-season review of the Mets’ infield, Amazin’ Avenue declared that Giménez had “stole the show” with his “excellent defense, good and timely hitting, and ability to steal bases.”

His strikeout rate and isolated power in 2020 mirrored his numbers from 2019, but his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage all improved. He recorded a .318 BABIP and has never posted a BABIP below .300, with a career BABIP of .311. Unlike Lindor, Giménez is not a switch hitter, but the left-hander posted nearly identical splits against right-handed (.263/.330/.400) and left-handed pitchers (.261/.346/.391).

In the field, Giménez’s defensive acumen may help compensate for the shortcomings of his swing. Last year, he was in the Top 15 in FanGraphs defense among National League shortstops with at least 100 plate appearances and tied for seventh in the NL in UZR. Giménez also ranked 15th among all MLB shortstops in outs above average according to Baseball Savant.

It is interesting that the Mets sought to make Giménez more of a power hitter, considering his profile is built around contact and speed. Cleveland is either optimistic that 2020 was a step forward and his revamped swing is starting to pay dividends, or they hope to return him to what he does best. His age may also be a factor in their evaluation of his potential. Giménez will be 22 years old on Opening Day, meaning he wasn’t even of legal drinking age for the entirety of his minor league career. His production at the plate (or lack thereof) may look more like growing pains to them than signs of a player brushing up against his ceiling.

While the two will be in similar situations, comparisons to Lindor are not fair. Lindor is an elite talent. At this point in his career, Giménez has performed to the level of an above-average talent at best. To me, the biggest development here is that the make-up of Cleveland’s lineup is very much in flux. Lindor and Carlos Santana — and you could even lump in César Hernández and Tyler Naquin — walking out the door saps a significant portion of the team’s power at the plate, and I am doubtful Giménez can fill the void. Defensively, I think Giménez will earn his paycheck at shortstop. But at the plate, I don’t know if I see him being a difference-maker in a lineup that desperately needs one (or several) of.