The potential path for Baty in 2023

January 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

On the morning that Carlos Correa agreed to contract terms with the Mets,  -- like so many with a vested interest in the club -- awoke to more than a dozen text messages from friends and acquaintances. As Baty was processing the news, his agent called to confirm that Correa was indeed coming to Queens, set to block him at his natural position of third base. 

The subsequent weeks, of course, changed everything. Upon medical review, Correa wound up signing in Minnesota instead of New York, reopening potential playing time for MLB Pipeline’s second-ranked Mets prospect. Baty is now prepared to compete for the team’s starting third-base job alongside Eduardo Escobar and others, with a chance to win it outright. 

“At the end of the day, you want that guy on your team,” Baty said of Correa, speaking this week on a phone interview. “If we did end up signing him, I would have been fine with going to try to play left field if somebody needed a day off or something like that. I just want to be in the big leagues helping a team win.”

But admittedly, Baty says, not having Correa around is better for his personal goals. Had Correa and Francisco Lindor been locked into the left side of New York’s infield for the next decade-plus, Baty would have either been traded or forced to move to another position -- most likely left field, which he’s played throughout his life but never as frequently as third base. 

Now, his path is clearer. Even if Escobar wins the third-base job this spring, Baty stands a strong chance of becoming the starter at some point over the next year. He could also settle into a platoon with Escobar, who is stronger against left-handed pitchers. 

“I see it like, if I go out there and show them that I’m capable of playing really solid defense and swinging it against Major League pitching in Spring Training, I feel like I’m going to get a shot,” said Baty, who homered on his first big league swing last August. “I’m going to get a look. But at the end of the day, it’s their call.”

One thing Baty has working in his favor is the fact that Escobar and Mark Vientos have both committed to playing in the World Baseball Classic, leaving Baty with a chance to receive significant reps deep into March -- something that wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a normal spring. That will allow Baty to showcase both his ability to hit big league pitching and his aptitude at third base, which he feels is vastly improved even from last season. 

Working out at the University of Texas’ baseball facility, Baty has put in countless hours fielding topspin ground balls, performing one-handed drills and also reaction-based training, such as the close-range “Ron Washington” drill named after the longtime Major League coach and manager. Baty has also done plenty of conditioning work in his hometown of Lake Travis, Texas, at a private facility where stars such as the NBA’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the NFL’s Myles Garrett train. 

For the 23-year-old Baty, hitting has never been in question. The former No. 12 overall pick produced a .943 OPS over 95 games in the Minors last season, all but skipping over Triple-A Syracuse on his way to a late-season debut. A subsequent right thumb injury prematurely ended his season, but Baty, who underwent surgery to repair that ligament, was fully healed from the injury by November and feels “stronger than ever.” He’s been in regular contact with Mets infield coach Joey Cora, bench coach Eric Chavez and farm director Kevin Howard, and he is planning to report to Spring Training almost a month early. 

No longer blocked by Correa, Baty understands the opportunity in front of him. 

“Everything happens for a reason,” Baty said. “We didn’t get [Correa], and now I’m back to being a third baseman first. We’ll see where it goes.”