It took the Mets more than 40 seasons to find a franchise third baseman when David Wright arrived in 2004, but they may not have to wait that long for their next great player at the hot corner to arrive.
Less than four years after Wright’s untimely retirement, the Amazins’ might have their next franchise third baseman waiting in the wings, and currently tearing up the Arizona Fall League, in prospect Brett Baty.
The 2019 first-round pick out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas took part in the league’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday night and ripped an opposite field double to left-center field. So far, he’s clubbed 21 hits in 76 at-bats in the Grand Canyon State, with four doubles, a home run and nine RBI.
Small as that sample size is, the 22-year-old Baty continues to build on a great 2021 minor league campaign in which he split time with the Mets’ farm teams in Brooklyn and Binghamton. In 91 games with the Cyclones and Rumble Ponies, Baty hit for a .292 batting average and a .382 on-base percentage. He continued to show signs of developing power, slugging 22 doubles and 12 home runs while driving in 56 RBI.
Even so, Baty may not quite be ready for prime time yet, as he struck out 98 times in 332 at-bats, a sign that he’ll need to continue working on his plate discipline. Defensively, he played 66 games at third base, but made 15 errors, good for a .915 fielding percentage.
He’s also proven that he can play other parts of the diamond, as he also had stints in both left and right field.
Baty’s continued improvements in the minors and the Arizona Fall League, however, suggest that he might arrive in Flushing faster than most had predicted — and that could impact what the Mets do at the hot corner for 2022.
Third base was a weakness for the Mets in 2021. JD Davis was penciled in for the spot at the start, but was nagged by injuries all season, and his defense at the hot corner has historically been subpar. Jonathan Villar stepped up ably at third base, hitting .251 with 15 home runs, with average defense at the position; in 97 games at third base, he committed 15 errors and had a .935 fielding percentage.
The answer for the Mets in 2022 might be either signing a short-term stopgap third baseman, hoping Baty will be ready to go in 2023, or finding a third baseman who can move to a corner outfield spot. Another option would be signing a veteran third baseman and moving Baty to a corner outfield position for 2023.
Kris Bryant would be an ideal fit. Splitting time between the outfield and third base, the free-agent Bryant slugged 25 home runs and had a .835 on-base percentage while splitting time with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants last season.
Other options could include Kyle Seager, most recently the franchise third baseman of the Seattle Mariners; Eduardo Escobar, who played last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers; and the aforementioned Villar.