Heading into spring training, the idea of Brett Baty and/or Mark Vientos cracking the Mets’ Opening Day roster was a long shot. But there was also a unique opportunity ahead of them.
New York’s entire starting infield — Omar Narvaez, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, and Eduardo Escobar — left Port St. Lucie for the World Baseball Classic. So, instead of having to fight for reps in Grapefruit League games, both Baty and Vientos got to play more than they would’ve in a “normal” spring.
The infielders took advantage. Entering Saturday, each of them has impressed in the field and at the dish. But who has been more impressive? And who has the better shot at making the roster?
Those two questions can be mutually exclusive. Vientos has shown more power. Through 54 at-bats, he’s racked up seven extra-base hits (five doubles, two homers) with a .791 OPS, but it’s also come with three walks and 21 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Baty has just two extra-base hits (one double, one homer) in 40 at-bats, but it’s been accompanied by a .885 OPS, eight walks, and 14 strikeouts.
Has one of them faced tougher pitching, though? That’s what Jon Heyman of the New York Post is suggesting after speaking with a scout:
While both are having great springs statistically, a closer look reveals Vientos is hitting better pitching.
“He’s faced the top dogs and has looked good at the plate,” one scout said.
This makes it seem lopsided, but it’s closer than it sounds. Baseball Reference has a stat for “opponent quality”. This measures the quality of pitching a batter faces. It’s on a scale of 10:
- 10: MLB
- 8: AAA
- 7: AA
- 5: High A
- 3: Full-Season A
- 1.5-3: Rookie and short-season Ball
Vientos’ number checks in at 7.6, while Baty’s is 7.1. So, yea, Marky Moonshots has the edge, but it’s close enough.
One’s inclusion on the roster in the immediate future is likely more dependent on the overall situation. Despite Darin Ruf tearing it up on the backfields, he may not be on the roster next week. If that happens, it’s probably because Vientos — a right-handed hitter with lots of Triple-A seasoning — is deemed ready to step in.
Escobar knows his days as the Mets’ starting third baseman are numbered. Even with an underwhelming spring, it looks more likely he’ll hold onto his job for now. You’d assume the leash is longer for him than it is for Ruf, especially since Baty has played in just six Triple-A games.
So, I do agree with Heyman’s overall assessment that Mark Vientos has a better shot than Baty at cracking the roster. However, I think it’s mostly because of the situation for each player and has nothing to do with the quality of pitching they’ve faced.
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You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.