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Give Baty a Chance
The Mets No. 2 prospect should start the season in the Majors
Spoiler alert: Carlos Correa ended up with the Twins. I know — what a twist! No one saw it coming! It was the “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” of free agency. Correa won’t be a Met, which means the third base job is still in question heading into 2023. And I’ve got just the man for the role: Brett Baty.
Sure, Eduardo Escobar turned his season around in the second half of 2022, and sure, Baty is coming off the shortest of MLB stints followed by thumb surgery. But Baty has proven that he’s ready, and on a team that could really use precisely the upside that he provides, there’s no time like the present.
In his 11 games with the big-league club last season, Baty only batted .184/.244/.342, but that’s far too small a sample size to make judgements based on offensive stats. More important was the fact that he crushed the ball. He homered twice in 11 games; his average exit velocity was 91.1 mph, compared to a league average of 88.6 mph; his maximum exit velocity was 113 mph, in the 89th percentile league wide. In fact, even though he batted only .184, based on his quality of contact, his expected batting average was .287.
With a full season, he’ll have a chance to put his swing to use over a much larger sample, and turn those hard outs into hits. Indeed, with a full offseason of work after experiencing big-league pitching for the first time, he could be even better. He’ll likely gain another advantage with MLB’s new rules against the shift. Prospect evaluators have raved over his swing for years, and with time to adjust, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be able to turn it into success in the majors.
Eduardo Escobar, of course, is the elephant in the room. He’s an absolutely solid player, and his .982 OPS in September and October helped carry the Mets through a wild playoff battle down the stretch. But Baty’s time has to come eventually, and Escobar’s presence isn’t reason to delay any further when Baty is ready, willing, and able.
Escobar’s defense has fallen off a cliff in recent years. From 2020 to 2022, his Outs Above Average fell from the 69th percentile to the 35th to the 8th. Baty probably won’t turn into a Gold Glover himself, but he’s perfectly acceptable in the field. MLB Pipeline rates his field tool as a 50 on the 20-80 scale, right in the middle of the pack. So Baty’s defense, one potential knock against swapping him in for Escobar, shouldn’t be a problem. He sometimes looked nervous in his 11-game stint last season, but again, there’s sample size to consider as well as rookie jitters.
Escobar also has another ready-made role into which he can slide: he can be the right-handed bat to Daniel Vogelbach’s lefty. Both last season and in his career, Escobar has been much better against lefties than righties. The Mets certainly don’t have a better right-handed bat available off the bench. They’ve got Darin Ruf, Mark Vientos, and Danny Mendick. Escobar is an enormous upgrade over all of them; he can start against lefties, and be the first pinch-hit option against left-handed relievers.
When it comes to Baty joining the big league club, there are two questions hanging over everything else. First, if not, why not? And second, if not now, when?
Baty already earned his call-up last season, so there’s no reason to think he’s not ready. If the Mets think he still has more to prove in the minors, then it’s hard to know exactly what they’re waiting for: between Double-A and a short stint at Triple-A last season, Baty batted .315/.410/.533. The Mets could stick him at Triple-A and look for more of that same production at the highest level of the minors, but that seems redundant; again, he already earned his call-up last season, and there’s been nothing since then to suggest that he’s somehow moved backwards from being ready.
If Baty doesn’t start the season with the big-league club, he’ll be in an awkward, annoying situation: sitting at Triple-A, ready to make the jump, but waiting for what seems like the vaguely random day when he’ll finally get the call. Or he’ll come up to fill a need after an injury — but if he’s ready to step in as an injury replacement, then he’s ready to go regardless.
Maybe you remember the last time the Mets called up an offensive prospect to start the season in the majors. Hint: he hit 53 home runs, was the NL Rookie of the Year, and vaulted the entire lineup to a whole new level. Baty has the potential to be just as impactful, and he should certainly get the chance.
The Mets can wait, but there no longer seems to be any reason to delay. Baty’s time has arrived, and the Mets should put him on the field and let him take it.