Mets' Luisangel Acuna during a spring training baseball game against...

Mets' Luisangel Acuna during a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Monday Feb. 26, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca


The Mets don’t technically have a competition at second base. Jeff McNeil is the $50 million incumbent, signed though 2026, and with the outfield slots accounted for, that’s where he’ll be spending most if not all of his time.

But there is a competition brewing at the position, and though it might not play out head-to-head during this spring training, the Mets already are laying the groundwork in these Grapefruit League games. Take Monday for instance, when Luisangel Acuna made his first start at second base alongside Francisco Lindor on Monday.

Acuna’s primary rival? That would be Jett Williams, who also made Monday’s trip to West Palm Beach but replaced Lindor at shortstop for the bottom of the fourth inning.

Both Williams and Acuna earned their top-prospect status at short. But with Lindor signed through 2031, he’ll be there for a while, leaving the Mets to find places for their next crop of potential young stars.

For Acuna, that’s primarily going to be second base, and it’s not as if he’s totally green at the position, playing a decent chunk there while in the Rangers’ system (82 starts) and another dozen starts at the Mets’ Double-A Binghamton affiliate last season.

He seemed right at home at the position Monday, scooping a couple of routine grounders, but the impressive part of his afternoon came at the plate.      He smacked a pair of   sharply struck opposite-field singles, the first one after being in an 0-and-2 hole, showing more control of the zone than he had in his previous at-bats over the weekend.


Expect that climb up the learning curve to continue. Acuna — the Mets’ No. 3 prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus — will turn 22 next month,  so he’s poised for some significant strides.

“As a young player, you want to do things quick,” he said through an interpreter after the Mets’ 6-3 win over the Nationals. “But it’s just all about making adjustments.”

That’s where Lindor comes in. Sticking the four-time All-Star next to Acuna is like having a coach as his double-play partner. It’s the best tutoring situation $341 million can buy, and Lindor has happily taken on that role for the next generation of Mets. For new manager Carlos Mendoza, it’s an invaluable teaching situation.

“That’s one of the reasons why we put him there today,” Mendoza said. “He could see just the way Lindor goes about it. He’s the leader of the infield, and when there’s a runner on first, the communication from pitch to pitch I think is important. And I think the conversations between innings, what he’s seeing from the pitcher, the hitters, the way they’re reading swings. Coming from a guy like Lindor, and having him right next to him, is important.”

Before spring training officially began, Lindor hosted minicamps for the younger players, either near his home in Orlando or at the Port St. Lucie complex. And now that he’s gotten a closer look at Acuna in game situations, Lindor has noticed some rapid adjustments.

“Today, he looked like he was slowing the game down,” Lindor said. “In his first game, he was swinging at stuff he wasn’t going to be able to get the barrel to. Today he controlled more of the zone and controlled his defense. So that’s going to be the biggest thing for any young player that comes up to the big leagues — it’s going to be to slow the game down.”

One thing Acuna already seems comfortable with? The massive expectations. Not only is he the younger brother of NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr., but the Mets acquired him for Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner and Cooperstown lock, with owner Steve Cohen eating $35 million to get the Rangers’ third-ranked prospect.

That’s some heavy baggage to carry into camp. It helped that the Mets made him Lindor’s locker neighbor, and Acuna seems to be fast friends with his teammates. Before boarding Monday’s 9:15 a.m. bus to West Palm Beach, he was shooting hoops with Drew Gilbert, the Mets’ No. 2 prospect, at the glass backboard rim perched above the side entrance.

Gilbert got the start Monday in centerfield, another position currently occupied (by the Harrison Bader/Brandon Nimmo combo). The expectation is that Williams, the Mets’ top-ranked prospect, will stick to shortstop and centerfield for this Grapefruit League schedule but later will also get starts at second base when he begins the year at Binghamton.

That puts him squarely on the radar at second with Acuna, who is expected to man that position at Triple-A Syracuse, and could put them on a collision course at some point in their major-league careers. It’s a competition to keep an eye on for the Mets’ future. We just don’t have a timetable yet, and for now, their development is taking place on different tracks.

On Monday, after Lindor’s departure, Acuna and Williams were together as double-play partners, another alignment we’ll probably be seeing more of. And depending on the Mets’ health, it could even happen someday in Queens.

Acuna is working on being a viable option at second base, the sooner the better.

“He’s getting used to the different angles,” Mendoza said. “The cuts and relays, the communication with the shortstop. Just the game reps. But the athleticism is there, and obviously the tools are there.”

The Mets’ future at second base could be here quicker than anyone imagined.

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