Mets infielders Amed Rosario, left, and Andres Gimenez during a spring...

Mets infielders Amed Rosario, left, and Andres Gimenez during a spring training workout on Tuesday at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Several years ago, the Mets signed a hotshot teenage shortstop out of Latin America, using a huge bonus to lure him to the blue and orange. He had a ton of talent and a high ceiling. With an advanced skill set, he began to climb up through the minors — and prospect rankings — quickly, always one of the youngest players in whichever league he was playing. Making the majors appeared to be a question of when, not if.

That is the short version of how Andres Gimenez got to where he is now, as the Mets’ top position-player prospect who begins 2020 close to The Show. But if the story sounds familiar, it is because Amed Rosario followed the same path (like Wilmer Flores before him and Jose Reyes before him).

In Rosario and Gimenez, the Mets have their starting shortstop and their potential future starting shortstop. And in Rosario, Gimenez has a mentor. That friendship might one day become awkward, if the Mets ever must decide between the two, but for now nobody involved seems too worried about it.

“He’s always been someone I can lean on,” Gimenez, who is likely to begin the season with Triple-A Syracuse, said through an interpreter. “Rosario has always given me the confidence and the wisdom and encouragement to continue on going. The one thing he does tell me to always do is remain positive, because that’s an important thing.”

Gimenez and Rosario met in 2017 when they both worked out at a facility run by Mike Barwis, the Mets’ senior adviser for strength and conditioning. That was the year Rosario reached the majors as one of the top prospects in baseball — and the year Gimenez first played stateside, hitting just .265 for low Class A Columbia.

Flash forward three years, and suddenly Rosario, still only 24 and just two-plus seasons into his major-league career, is wise enough and mature enough to be the one doling out advice (while still existing as the mentee around the likes of Robinson Cano). Gimenez, 21, soaks it up.

“We do stay in constant communication,” Gimenez said.

Added Rosario, also through an interpreter: “We are good friends. He’s a kid who has a lot of ability, who is tremendous when it comes to his talent.”

Gimenez isn’t the same kind of minor-leaguer Rosario was. Although a top-100 prospect in recent years, he comes with less hype. He has a glove-first reputation — he is very highly regarded defensively — and a bat that has shown flashes of excellence but has lacked consistency.

Last year with Double-A Binghamton, Gimenez endured early struggles and finished with a .250/.309/.387 slash line. “It was a rollercoaster for me,” he said. Then he went to the Arizona Fall League and won the batting title, hitting .371 (with a .999 OPS) in 18 games.

“It shows he’s willing to put in the work,” said Jared Banner, the Mets’ executive director of player development. “He’s a smart, young player who has shown the ability to make adjustments. Last year is a great example of that — he had some early struggles but continued to put in the work on a daily basis and improved and improved and I think it really shined through (in the AFL).”

The Mets don’t need to make a Rosario/Gimenez decision yet — if ever — but Gimenez is close enough to the majors that the possibilities are worth teasing out. Gimenez has dabbled with second base as a pro, but the Mets don’t have any immediate plans to move him around the diamond.

Rosario made steady strides while learning on the fly in the majors throughout his early 20s, and the Mets hope he will continue to do so. He finished last season as an approximately league-average hitter with defense that stabilized following initial issues. So shortstop could be locked up for at least several more years.

At second base, Cano is under contract through the 2023 season. Jeff McNeil, a multi-position All-Star last year, is the starting third baseman heading into 2020.

Gimenez forcing his way into the Mets’ major-league plans — by dominating in Triple-A and progressing as a hitter — would be a problem they would be happy to have.

“He’s a versatile, athletic guy, so I don’t see anything being too much of a challenge for him defensively. He’s a special defender,” Banner said. “He is capable of doing a lot of different things because he’s so athletic and so smart on the field. So anything is possible for him.”


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