David Stearns won’t, as he described it, “drill down,” competitions at Mets Spring Training quite yet. That normally takes two weeks before, but early indications suggest that it’s open season for the designated hitter role, the go-to bench bat, platoon options, and a sixth starter when the rotation expands.
He didn’t initially mention third base, which toward the beginning of the offseason promised to be one of the more compelling competitions between Bretty Baty, Ronny Mauricio, and potentially Mark Vientos.
But Mauricio tore his ACL during the Dominican Winter League in December and underwent surgery in January — a procedure that will keep him sidelined for the majority of the 2024 season.
“Ronny is still at the early stages of his rehab,” Stearns said on Monday. “This is going to be a long haul for him. We knew that when we got the diagnosis of the injury. Everything is going fine so far, but we’re still at the early stages.”
With the Mets failing to sign a DH this winter, Vientos has suddenly become a strong possibility to get a bulk of his at-bats in that role, leaving Baty to get first dibs at starting at the hot corner this spring. Stearns, however, isn’t ready to simply hand him the starting job before spring instruction even begins.
“We’re going to have some competition there,” Stearns said. “We believe in Brett there.”
The 24-year-old’s first taste of the majors hasn’t been all that impressive. In 391 career at-bats, he owns a .210 average and a .597 OPS and trends toward the bottom of most major offensive analytical data. Per Baseball Savant, his expected batting average and slugging percentage are in the 24th percentile, his Whiff% is in the 16th percentile, and his strikeout rate is in the 18th percentile.
His fielding hasn’t been much better with a minus-4 outs above average (range) that came in at the 15th percentile in Major League Baseball.
Stearns isn’t promising a World Series chase in 2024, but he’s guaranteeing a competitive team and if Baty stumbles out of the gates, there are other options for the team to consider, including Vientos and new signings in Joey Wendle and Zack Short.
“We believe that Mark Vientos can also play that position,” Stearns said. “We’ve got Joey Wendle on the roster, Zack Short is in camp and he’s played that position defensively at a very high level in the past. So I think there will be some level of competition there, yes.”