Once named the most exciting player in the 2011 Midwest League—a circuit that featured future all-stars Ender Inciarte and Jesus Aguilar, speedster Billy Hamilton, and the late uber-prospect Oscar Taveras—Rymer Liriano‘s career, to this point, has amounted to all of 167 major league plate appearances.
The now 27-year-old outfielder received a limited run with the San Diego Padres, the organization with which he rose through the minor leagues, in 2014. Liriano has since seen time with the Triple-A affiliates of the Chicago White Sox (who gave him 46 plate appearances in 2017), the Los Angeles Angels, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
With the Padres, Liriano was named as one of the organization’s top 30 prospects seven times, according to Baseball America, reaching as high as number two prior to the 2012 season. Following a breakout campaign, in which he slashed .298/.365/.465 with 66 stolen bases, he was praised for his plus speed, above-average arm strength, and “the strength and bat plane necessary to hit 25 homers one day.” Seven years later, he still has 23 to go—for his career.
It certainly hasn’t helped that he’s missed two full seasons in his career with injuries, including a torn UCL in 2013 and a freak accident during spring training in 2016 in which a pitch found his face and caused multiple facial fractures.
The Mets saw enough in Liriano to ink him to a no-risk minor league contract, announced on January 3, which would pay him $600,000 if he reaches the major leagues, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The most memorable moment of Liriano’s major league career to this point came, unfortunately, in the pre-Statcast era, but it remains the most convincing example of his light tower power.
The power is unquestioned, but through over 4000 professional plate appearances, he just hasn’t had many opportunities to use it, owning a career 25.2% strikeout rate and well below-average contact rates.
However, Liriano managed to put together some solid trends in 2018 that perhaps gives reason to believe that he could provide value as a fifth outfielder going forward. For one, he continued an approach that saw him increase his fly ball rate, and productivity, dramatically.
Were they empty numbers? Unlikely, as the stringer inputs (warning: not definitively reliable, but still solid context) had this to say:
Perhaps playing time in new organizations, where Liriano didn’t feel the pressure to meet lofty expectations, allowed him to relax and let the game come to him. While his strikeout rate was at its worst since his debut season in the Dominican Summer League in 2008, he posted one of the best walk rates of his career. At this point, Liriano’s upside is that of a three true outcomes hitter.
How he fits
In a good problem to have, the Mets aren’t shaping up to have any competitions for opening day roster spots among position players. While Liriano is solid depth to have in Triple-A (certainly better than the likes of Matt den Dekker and Kevin Kaczmarski), his contract includes opt-out dates to pursue opportunities in Asia. He’ll almost certainly explore that avenue if it becomes blatantly clear that he won’t have a path to major league spot.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball, Quality of Pitch, and Statcorner.