Mets general manager Billy Eppler knows that the ceiling is high for third-base prospect Brett Baty, who provided a glimpse of how good he can be as the franchise’s potential third baseman of the future during spring training.
Yet, despite slashing .325/.460/.425 (.885 OPS) with one home run and six RBI across 40 at-bats along with improving defense, the 23-year-old was sent down to Triple-A just days before the start of the 2023 season.
“It was a tough decision,” Eppler said. “We had a pretty long meeting to walk through a lot of different combinations. It was best served to start him in Triple-A. One of the things we talked about with Brett, we think he has a chance to be an above-average player at the major-league level for a championship-caliber team.”
Eppler proceeded to bring up the major-league paths of current All-Star third basemen, citing the 400 games Nolan Arenado of the St. Louis Cardinals played in Triple-A or the 310 that Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox played, or the 430 appearances by Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves.
“You learn by playing a lot,” Eppler said. “While he had a great camp and we’re excited about his future, there are more development markers to reach. He’ll probably go down, carry a lot he consumed down here, and we’re excited for the future.”
It’s the same approach the Mets have taken with top prospect and catcher Francisco Alvarez, who was optioned to Triple-A last week, too, after he struggled during the spring. He, like Baty and Mark Vientos — who was sent down with Bary — also have veterans currently providing roadblocks.
While Alvarez works on achieving the “complete package” Eppler is looking for, the Mets have a platoon behind the plate of Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido. At third base, Eduardo Escobar is owed $10 million in the final year of his contract.
Yet Eppler maintained his stance that it doesn’t have to do with the players ahead of them on the depth chart — more so the final seasoning necessary to round out a major-league product that can contribute consistently upon their promotion. And that might not be too far away, either.
“They’re a phone call away should something come up,” Eppler continued. “They don’t need something to happen at the major league level. They have the type of talent where they can push their way up here. There’s still some development objectives to reach.”