New York Mets infielder Brett Baty throws during a spring training game against the Miami Marlins, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., on March 1, 2023. Baty could make the Mets opening day roster. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
When the curtain rises on the 2023 Major League Baseball season next, both teams in New York might have promising rookie infielders on their roster.
But make no mistake: Brett Baty, the Mets No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com and survivor of the latest round of cuts in Mets spring training at Port St. Lucie, Fla., is the player who should make an immediate impact in the Big Apple this season.
Baty appeared in 11 games with the Mets last season, making his Major League debut on August 17 and smacking a two-run homer in his first at-bat. His season ended prematurely due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb that required surgery. The 23-year-old has picked up right where he left off, swinging a hot bat in spring training for the Mets, slashing .333/.469/.905 while giving Eduardo Escobar and Luis Guillorme stiff competition for the starting job at the hot corner.
Escobar played 130 games for the Mets at third last season, with Guillorme, a utilityman, taking the bulk of the remaining time. Only Escobar is a switch hitter, with both Baty and Guillorme batting from the left side exclusively, and that would give Buck Showalter flexibility at third when facing left-handed pitching. FanGraphs, via its ZiPS projections, expects a modest .234/.292/.417 triple-slash line from Escobar in a similar number of games this season, along with projecting 21 homers and 71 RBI.
In Guillorme, who played a season-high 102 games last season, the Mets have a slightly better than replacement-level 29-year-old utility man who’s never going to be the full-time answer at third base, as he lacks power at the plate and has a career on-base percentage of .354.
His other competition for a spot in on the Major League roster is Mark Vientos, the Mets 2017 second round pick who’s been hitting .283 with an on-base percentage of .316 in the spring. Vientos appeared in 111 games with Triple-A Syracuse last season and 16 with the Mets in September, mainly as a designated hitter. Like Baty, Vientos is 23 and still has time to develop. He was effective at the plate for Syracuse, hitting 24 homers and driving in 72 runs and projects as a serviceable player in the major leagues.
The knock on Baty has been his defensive play, something he worked on over the winter with Troy Tulowitzki, who was coaching at the University of Texas, located in Baty’s hometown of Austin.
“He was really big on the importance of slowing the game down,” Baty told SNY’s John Harper earlier this month. “Really having that internal clock, knowing how much time you have over there at third base, knowing the speed of the runners, so you don’t speed yourself up and rush yourself. That really stuck out to me, and that helped a lot. If you look at all the elite fielders, they always know exactly how much time they have. They’re never rushed.”
Certainly, Baty’s cameo last August indicated that the organization sees him in their future, even if the Mets were rather depleted in the infield at that point in the season. FanGraphs, via ZiPS, projects Baty to have a similar year to Escobar, estimating Baty would hit .253/.331/.424 with 19 homers and 69 RBI in 111 games.
If the organization decides that Baty should start the year at Triple-A Syracuse, so be it. He’s developed quickly since being drafted in the first round (12th overall) out of Austin’s Lake Travis High School in 2019.
But if they believe that Brett Baty is the future third baseman in Flushing, the future is now.