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Mets Banking On Better Baty

Just one year ago, the Mets and third baseman Brett Baty were in a very different situation from where they are now. Last spring training, Baty put up some of the best offensive numbers of any Mets player, with a .325 batting average and an .885 OPS. These numbers were so impressive that it was a bit confusing to some that Baty didn’t make the Opening Day roster and had to wait until mid-April to make his season debut.

This year, Baty came to camp as the front-runner in competition with Mark Vientos for the starting third baseman’s job. Most people were expecting the Mets to come out of camp with Baty as the regular starter at the hot corner, while Vientos would spend most of his time as designated hitter. Earlier this week, Vientos learned that he would be starting the season at Triple-A Syracuse, and Baty would be the team’s full-time third baseman. Sort of.

Baty’s history of inconsistency in the field may force the Mets to use one of their backup infielders, Zack Short or Joey Wendle, as a late inning defensive replacement. Similarly, Baty’s inability to reproduce the offensive success he’s had in the minors will likely give him a relatively short leash on his starting job.

Brett Baty has put up some impressive numbers over parts of 4 seasons in the minor leagues. To go along with a .290 batting average and an .897 OPS, Baty has 115 extra base hits (64 doubles, 3 triples, 48 home runs) in 986 career minor league at-bats. When the Mets brought Baty up to the majors in August of 2022, he immediately rewarded them with a home run in his first career at-bat. Things went downhill from there as he struggled a bit for the next couple weeks before a thumb injury requiring surgery ended his season. Still, despite his struggles, his minor league numbers combined moments from his first few weeks in the majors were enough to whet Mets fans’ appetite. Baty followed last year’s spring training performance with an even hotter stint at Syracuse, batting .400 with 5 home runs in the team’s first 9 games. When Mets backup outfielder Tim Locastro’s back spasms landed him on the injured list, the Mets called up Baty for what they hoped would be the lone time in 2023. Unfortunately for Baty and the team, things didn’t work out that way.

Over 86 games from mid-April through early August, the Mets and Baty gave it their best shot. The results just weren’t there, though. The once #2 prospect in the Mets system batted a meager .216 with an even uglier .620 OPS. The player whose power was his calling card in the minors had only 7 home runs and 27 RBIs during that time. An 0-18 stretch in early August didn’t help his case. His play in the field was similarly disappointing. For those into fielding stats, he had -6 Outs Above Average and -4 Runs Prevented. To the naked eye, he just never seemed comfortable. To his credit, Baty was open about his struggles, admitting that the major league game was moving just a little too fast for him. While Mets fans can appreciate a young player’s honesty and humility, they really appreciate success even more.

It didn’t take long for Baty to catch up to the minor league game. As he had done in the past, Baty mashed minor league pitching. In his 17-game second stint with the Syracuse Mets, Baty hit 5 home runs and had an .822 OPS. He was called up again at the beginning of September. His results, however, were awfully familiar, and he ended the season with a .212 batting average and a .598 OPS.

Unlike last spring, Brett Baty didn’t quite tear the cover off the ball this year, batting just .244 with a pedestrian .726 OPS. The Mets gave him his chances, as he was third on the team in spring at-bats with 41 (behind Mark Vientos and Francisco Lindor). Still, spring stats are an incomplete story, as the Mets believe they’ve seen encouraging growth in Baty’s approach. So, also unlike last spring, Baty will start out the season as the team’s regular third baseman. While he may need to be replaced in the late innings from time-to-time, the Mets are certainly hoping he’ll be a fixture at the position for years to come.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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