PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Brett Baty knelt on a back field late Sunday morning, scooping up baseballs that an instructor bounced in his direction. At 6-foot-3, Baty plucked them off the turf with ease, showcasing the type of rangy wingspan that a third baseman needs.
That Baty might not always be a third baseman hardly matters. The Mets have already tried Baty, one of their top offensive prospects, in left field. Since Draft Day, scouts have pointed to first base as a potential destination for him (though the organization has yet to use him there). The club’s No. 2 prospect has taken to carrying around multiple gloves during early prospect camp in Port St. Lucie, but the simple truth is this: so long as Baty hits, the Mets will find a place for him to play.
That part of things hasn’t ever been a problem for Baty, whose banner 2021 included a Futures Game appearance, a midsummer promotion to Double-A Binghamton and a white-hot stretch in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, Baty slashed .292/.382/.473 last year in the Minors. He’s generally regarded as the Mets’ second-best offensive prospect behind catcher Francisco Álvarez.
Unlike the 20-year-old Álvarez, however, Baty is already 22, a former first-round pick who was relatively old on 2019 Draft Day and plenty mature for a high schooler. Had the pandemic not affected his early development — Baty wasn’t able to play professional games at all in 2020, before he and his Binghamton teammates missed a lengthy string of games late last season due to COVID-19 issues — he might already be approaching the Majors.
As it is, Baty stands a non-zero chance of debuting late this summer. And he knows it.
“I’m just looking forward to the journey,” Baty said. “Whenever it happens, it will happen.”
Along with Álvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos, Baty is among a group of high-ceilinged position-player prospects who should all arrive in Flushing within the next two seasons. Baseball-wise, he has the most in common with Vientos, another high school Draft pick whose natural position is third base.
Last season, sensing a future infield crunch, Mets officials asked Baty and Vientos to take some reps in left field, which each did without complaint. That experiment is likely to continue into this summer, though Baty says he hasn’t yet been told where he will play.
“It was really fun just to show off the versatility,” Baty said.
Other tests are also forthcoming for the Texas native, who is set to play a full season in the upper Minors for the first time in his career. If Baty succeeds, it’s entirely reasonably to think he could earn a second-half callup to the Mets, much as Michael Conforto did at the same age in 2015. Regardless of whether that happens, Baty — with a strong season — can position himself to challenge for an everyday role as soon as next spring.
In the interim, he’ll continue playing wherever he’s asked, knowing his bat is what will carry him to the Majors. It’s at the plate that Baty has done the most of his damage, with 60 extra-base hits in 613 career plate appearances.
It’s at the plate that the Mets intend to watch Baty shine.
“I’m looking forward to playing more games,” Baty said. “I’m just looking forward to the journey, getting to see all the guys. Getting back here in Port St. Lucie has been awesome. I’m just really excited for what’s to come.”