Neither Jeff McNeil’s bat nor Jose Peraza’s glove can erase a seven-run differential.
On the day manager Luis Rojas foretold of a change at second base in the near future because Jeff McNeil is expected to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A this weekend, the Mets were walloped, 10-3, by the American League-worst Orioles in Baltimore.
The Mets will be trading defense for offense whenever McNeil, a career .312 hitter, replaces Peraza. Maybe that sounds a little bit more appetizing after Tuesday resulted in just four hits, two of which were Pete Alonso’s home runs.
“He responded really well to treatment,” Rojas said before the game of McNeil. “We’re pretty optimistic. He’s been progressing in every aspect. He was bragging about it before we got on the road trip, telling me how fast he was going.”
Peraza made his 20th start of the season at second base and played flawless defense again. He shoveled a nifty feed to Francisco Lindor for a should’ve-been double play (blown call) in the first inning and turned two later in the game.
“He’s been great,” Rojas said. “He and Lindor connected really well. They don’t shut up during the game. You hear them from the dugout. They’re moving around, and they’re on their toes.”
Peraza hasn’t made an error — including in his two starts at third base — but that doesn’t tell the full story. Proper appreciation of Peraza’s fielding requires a deeper analytical look to show that he is in the 97th percentile when it comes to outs-above-average, according to Baseball Savant.
Entering Tuesday, Peraza had a 74 percent success rate on 65 attempts, which is 8 percentage points above the estimated success rate and represents significant added value.
“Peraza is a guy who originally was a shortstop, so second base would be a position where he can dominate,” Rojas said. “The confidence level he is at right now has helped him play third as well when needed. We are aware of the metrics.”
McNeil (hamstring) could be available much sooner than expected when he initially went on the injured list on May 17. The preliminary plan includes building up from five to seven to nine innings, then back-to-back complete games, according to Rojas. But the squeeze on Peraza also includes Luis Guillorme, whose rehab at Triple-A is underway.
“One of the things we are going to ask Jose is to do something he has done in the past: Be ready to play different positions,” Rojas said. “Yes, he’s been our second baseman for almost a month now. He’s been great at it and he’s helped us win a lot of games, but he’s going to have to help us as a utility guy as well if he’s going to be here. He’s going to get some reps in different positions down the road.”
Peraza has 65 games of MLB experience across the outfield, including 11 starts in center. He is hitting .222 for the season, but his batting average increases with two outs and runners in scoring position and when a game is within a three-run margin. A home run to back Jacob deGrom in a scoreless game Saturday was his latest clutch hit.
“We are going to talk to him and make sure he stays open-minded that this is reality,” Rojas said. “In the National League, he’s a very valuable player to be available moving around. We can use those strengths to keep him around with the guys coming in.”