Friday, March 17, 2023

Brett Baty Should Be the Opening Day Third Baseman

Brett Baty has displayed a Major League-ready bat and a mature attitude this spring. He looks ready for the next step. Will the Mets let him take it?

Syracuse is an underrated city, at least when the lake-effect snow machine is turned off. There's a lot to do there. You'll find the famous university and the Erie Canal Museum in town. They have a zoo that currently is featuring twin baby elephants. There are a ton of nearby outdoor recreation spots if you're so inclined. And, best of all, there is baseball to be watched. The Triple-A Syracuse Mets will open their season in a mere couple of weeks.

I can almost guarantee you that some young Mets stars of the future, like Francisco Álvarez and Ronny Mauricio, will be on their roster, at least for the beginning of the season. What's becoming increasingly clear is that young third base prospect Brett Baty shouldn't be there — unless he's a history buff and wants to spend a few hours one day checking out that cool Erie Canal Museum.

This is not to say that Baty won't join Álvarez, Mauricio, and perhaps Mark Vientos in the "Salt City" this spring. Just that he shouldn't. You can make a more or less convincing case for the other kids to start the year there. Francisco Álvarez clearly has some work to do defensively. The demands of his position in MLB are high. Álvarez needs to get better at catching if he is to become the primary backstop for the Mets. He would undoubtedly benefit from catching almost every day in Syracuse. It's become clear that Francisco will not break camp with the Mets.

Mauricio has really upped his prospect profile with his dominant showing in the Dominican Winter League and his excellent camp. But the scouting report on Ronny is that he has trouble recognizing spin and too often gets himself out with poor plate discipline. He'll face pitchers who can spin up solid breaking balls in Triple-A. Ronny Mauricio's power is impressive, but he only gets to that power if he can learn to consistently get a pitch to hit rather than harmlessly waving at pitchers' pitches.

Mark Vientos presents a different issue. At age 23 and with over 100 games played in Triple-A, it's debatable whether Vientos really needs more time in Syracuse. Mark is also enjoying a solid camp, slashing .268/.286/.488 with 3 doubles and a pair of homers. But he has only 1 BB and 17 Ks in 44 ABs. That translates to 200 strikeouts over 500 ABs, which is a lot of swing-and-miss. Mark has drawn his share of walks in the minors, so the single walk this spring seems like a fluke, but he's always struck out a lot, so that's a concern.

But the biggest worry with Mark Vientos — assuming the Mets believe in his power bat — is whether they can get him enough playing time if they give him a bench role in Queens. The ABs available as the righty part of a DH platoon won't cut it for a young kid trying to break into the majors. My personal belief is that Vientos would be better served if the Mets traded him to a club that could give him reps at 1B, too. Developing kids need to play, not sit.

Then there is Bretty Baty. Like Álvarez, Brett is clearly not a finished product defensively. But Baty's offensive approach really does look ready for prime time. He doesn't get himself out. His decisions at what to swing at look sound, and he'll take a walk. This is a guy who really looks like a developing middle-of-the-order bat. The Mets could clearly use another of those.

Of course. Brett Baty did struggle a bit last year in his limited cameo in New York before the thumb injury. He's likely to have some ups and downs offensively as he figures out Major League pitching. He won't be hitting in the middle of an MLB lineup right away. But Brett really doesn't look offensively like someone who would greatly benefit from more Triple-A experience.

In a post I wrote back in January, I linked to an article by Will Sammon in The Athletic that featured an interview with Mets' GM Billy Eppler on the importance of Triple-A in a ballplayer's development:
Generally speaking, Eppler said he views Triple A as a "very important stepping stone for a player." The way Eppler sees it, Double A commonly features high-end traits like big velocity. It tests players' physical tools. Triple A features more experienced players, like pitchers messing with timing by throwing 2-0 changeups. It tests the mental side.

"I love (players) to be able to ace both of those tests before rolling them out in our situation with the kind of club that we expect to have," Eppler said.

While Álvarez played in 45 games for Triple-A Syracuse — he had an .825 OPS in 199 plate appearances before the Mets promoted him ahead of their final road series of the regular season — Baty appeared in just six games. Baty went 8 for 22 (.364 batting average) with Syracuse, and the Mets called him up in mid-August while they were dealing with injuries to their infield.

Strictly speaking, although Brett Baty enjoyed success in that brief stay in Salt City, a 6-game stay does not constitute "acing" the test. If Baty does start the year in Triple-A, there is no doubt that Billy Eppler could justify the decision. Also, I've been around long enough not to believe that Baty's excellent spring line of .400/.500/.533 guarantees anything once the games begin in earnest on March 30. But there's no doubt that he's looked comfortable this spring taking ABs against Major League pitching. I really wonder if spending some more time in Syracuse would benefit Baty's offensive game. If it doesn't, what's the point?

Yes, Brett's defense at third base can definitely use all of the work he's willing to put in. But that work can just as effectively take place at the Major League level with Major League coaching. Baty has shown that he's willing to do that work. Buck Showalter can sit Baty down and tell him that he can be the Mets' third baseman out of camp. One caveat — he'll be expected to put in extra time working on his defense, especially early in the season. I don't think the kid will have a problem with that. And, while I love Eduardo Escobar and what he brings to the Mets, he's not a good defensive third baseman. Baty is unlikely to be a huge step down from Escobar in that department.

Baseball's minor leagues are important. I believe Eppler's philosophy of having kids ace the tests of both Double-A and Triple-A is sound. But I also believe that keeping a kid in the minors longer than you need to is just a waste of a piece of a relatively short career. If the Mets really are committed to a vision of sustainability, getting kids integrated into the Majors is crucial. I'm really curious to see how they handle Brett Baty this spring.

It's nice to take it cautiously with prospects. However, one consequence of Edwin Díaz's injury is that the Mets will probably need more offense to overcome a weaker bullpen this season. If they can turn Brett Baty into a productive Major League hitter sooner rather than later, he can make their lineup better and help in this effort.


Just a quick follow-up to my post on why I believe they need to move the WBC to the fall. No, I don't believe that MLB will move the tournament. They're clearly committed to doing it in the spring. As others have pointed out, MLB does not want this tournament competing for eyes against NFL and College football in the fall. Not that the ratings in the spring are all that great, but they would certainly go down in the fall. Most likely they would have a hard time getting a network to carry the games, also.

Even as someone who dislikes the tournament, I wouldn't advocate for abolishing it. It matters too much to the players who love to play in it and those fans who, unlike me, enjoy watching. In four years I'm sure I'll once again be crossing all of my fingers and toes and hoping any Mets taking part in it will survive intact. Such is life.


Dennis Santana, the RHP the Mets just picked up on waivers from the Twins, is an interesting arm. He throws pretty hard, doesn't give up many hits, but walks too many guys. He's got plenty of MLB experience. Santana was off to a solid start for the Rangers last season before really tailing off in the second half. He's the sort of reliever that teams like to take a flier on. Sometimes a good organization can "fix" a guy like that and get a really good season out of them.

On the other hand, he was just waived by the Minnesota Twins. He has no minor league options remaining. The Mets will have to keep him on the Major League roster all season or put him on waivers again. The Mets have RHP Stephen Nogosek already on the roster, who is also out of options. Nogosek was pretty good for the Mets in 2022. His K/9 rate isn't as high as Santana's, but his BB/9 rate is much lower.

With only a couple of weeks left until the season, I wonder what the Mets see in Santana that they believe might be fixed in time for him to be a member of their bullpen this season. I'll watch with interest over these last couple of weeks, but it sort of feels like a distraction more than anything else. Even in a relatively strong 2021 campaign with the Rangers, his best stretch of pitching in MLB, Santana walked 21 batters in 39.2 IP. I find it hard to believe that the Mets can accomplish something with Dennis Santana in two short weeks that would make carrying him all season worthwhile.

Be well, everyone. Let's go Mets!

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  1. It may be that the Mets are stockpiling guys to open up some trade possibilities to address the many injuries they've already suffered. In the past they may not have considered trading Nogosek. Now they might if it helps in another area. The same applies to the nowhere-to-play Vientos. If you approached Pittsburgh and said you could have Vientos plus whomever to get David Bednar, they'd likely listen.

  2. I don't see any trade likley now. I just think other teams would ask for the moon right now, figuring the Mets would be desperate


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