This Mets veteran is 'ready to go' for 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.
There’s a buzz around Brett Baty in the early days of camp, and rightfully so. One of the Mets’ highest-rated prospects since the organization drafted him in the first round in 2019, Baty enters camp with a legitimate chance to make the team -- provided he does enough to prove he deserves at least a share of the third-base reps that would normally go to Eduardo Escobar.
But the Mets aren’t forgetting about Escobar, a popular veteran who was their best hitter last September, bashing eight home runs at a time when the team could have used that sort of production from others on the roster. Escobar is back in camp, fully healthy and feeling good about his ability to impact the club.
In other words, barring injury, Escobar is going nowhere.
“I’m happy and ready to go,” Escobar said.
Prior to his season-ending hot streak, Escobar had scuffled to such an extent that when he suffered a mild left oblique injury in August, the Mets called up Baty ahead of schedule to replace him. For a brief period, Baty effectively became the starter, until right thumb surgery prematurely ended his season. When that happened, Escobar stepped back into an everyday role at third base and thrived, which cooled the situation significantly.
Asked what changed, Escobar referenced personal problems that affected him at the ballpark during the midsummer months -- things to which manager Buck Showalter had previously alluded. Although he did not wish to divulge the nature of those issues, Escobar said they “calmed down” by September, allowing him to approach his job with renewed freedom.
“Buck talked to me a lot,” Escobar said. “He said, ‘Relax. Do it the way you’ve done it all your career.’”
By season’s end, his totals of 20 home runs and a .725 OPS were not quite up to his usual standards, but Escobar is confident that this year will be steadier. He’s ramping up quicker than normal to play for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, which should give Mets coaches an extended look at Baty back in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Ultimately, there is a path to playing time for both -- Escobar could be the third-base starter against left-handed pitchers and a part-time DH versus righties, for example, with Baty manning the other half of a third-base platoon.
But the Mets are also content to have Baty receive a bit more seasoning in the Minors if Escobar proves, as he often has, that he’s still a dangerous Major League hitter.