Thanks to the way the Mets built their roster this past winter, they entered spring training without a ton of burning questions. The one spot on the diamond with a chance to change before Opening Day, though? That always seemed to be third base with Brett Baty giving Eduardo Escobar a run for his money.
We don’t know yet if Baty has officially leapfrogged Escobar for the starting third base job. The switch-hitting veteran certainly sounds resigned to it, though. When asked about whether he thinks he’s still the starter, here’s what he said, as captured by Mike Puma of the New York Post:
I don’t know. For me I am coming in here with the idea that I am working hard and control what I can and working and seeing what happens.
In typical Escobar fashion, he spoke highly of Baty, Mark Vientos, and the work they’ve done so far in Port St. Lucie:
These guys are the future of the team. They are doing a great job and I am so happy these two kids are doing a great job in spring training.
Vientos has looked good at various positions and at the plate. In 52 at-bats, the right-handed hitter is slashing .288/.321/.500 with 11 RBI and seven extra-base hits (five doubles, two homers). However, the one concerning aspect of his offensive performance involves plate discipline. Vientos has drawn three walks while striking out 21 times during Grapefruit League action.
As for Baty, the 23-year-old looks ready for an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues. His defense has looked better with each passing opportunity, and his bat has looked ready since arriving in PSL. In 38 at-bats, Baty is slashing .342/.468/.447 with five RBI and two extra-base hits (one double, one homer). He’s also drawn seven walks while striking out 13 times.
Escobar is having lots of fun this spring (outside of all the cat pranks). But in the batter’s box, it’s been tough for him. In 20 Grapefruit League at-bats, he’s slashing just .100/.182/.100. He homered in the World Baseball Classic, but his overall stats weren’t much better in 10 at-bats (.100/.100/.400).
Leaving camp for the WBC was a risky move for his immediate future with the Mets. Mostly because it opened the door for Baty and others to get more reps in front of New York’s coaching staff. Not hitting well while he was gone certainly doesn’t help, either.
If Baty does leapfrog Eduardo Escobar and heads to Miami with the Mets for Opening Day, there’s some silver lining. Esky is versatile enough — in the field and at the plate — to remain valuable to the Mets. He could shift to being at least the right-handed part of the designated hitter platoon. That’d likely lead to a change of scenery for Darin Ruf, too.
A big spring from Baty provides a good problem for the Mets. Fitting him onto the Opening Day roster and shifting Escobar’s role will strengthen the starting lineup and the bench. There’s still some time for the veteran to prove he’s ready to start at the hot corner. However, it sounds like he knows what his immediate roster fate looks like with Opening Day about a week away.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.