BALTIMORE — Mark Vientos’ start at third base on Sunday gave Mets officials another chance to view the rookie at the position before they potentially choose a course for most, if not all, of the remaining season.
Before the Mets open a new homestand Monday, team officials plan to discuss whether Brett Baty would be better served returning to Triple-A Syracuse, for his own good. Team brass held the same discussion last week, but chose to stick with Baty largely because an alternative to play third base couldn’t be decided upon.
But Baty went 0-for-18 on this latest road trip — following his rough July in which he produced a .552 OPS — and Mets officials are rightfully concerned that keeping the rookie in the lineup will be counterproductive. On Sunday as the DH, Baty was 0-for-2 with two walks in the Mets’ sixth straight loss, 2-0 the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Vientos wasn’t spotless at third base, mishandling a grounder in the fifth inning on which he probably had a play at the plate. Vientos’ only play was to first base, as the Orioles scored their first run. Vientos has appeared unsteady in his limited opportunities at the position, complicating the Baty decision.
Also, Ronny Mauricio hasn’t taken reps at third base for Triple-A Syracuse and won’t be thrust into the position for the Mets even if team officials decided he was ready offensively.
Baty has struggled defensively, apparent to the naked eye, and from an analytical standpoint he’s minus-5 in outs above average for the season, according to Statcast, which places him only in MLB’s ninth percentile at the position.
The Mets worry about mental and emotional fatigue with Baty, who has spoken to team officials about the difference in concentration level between the minor league and major league levels. In the minor leagues, a player can take pitches off and not worry about repercussions. It’s a different story in the major leagues, especially in New York, where one lapse of concentration can become something that gets dissected for a week.
“You’re under a microscope up here, so you have got to be engaged from Pitch 1 to the end of the game,” Baty said. “That is something I have got to work on and something I have got to learn, so I am going to do my best at it.”
The major league grind is relentless, an aspect of the game that often isn’t evident to young players until they arrive and experience it firsthand. Baty played in his 94th game on Sunday — all but nine of them have been for the Mets — placing him close to his career-high from last season. The difference was just 11 of those games came for the Mets last year and 95 were in the minor leagues.
“The challenge up here is emotional and mental,” manager Buck Showalter said before the game. “The things that don’t happen in Binghamton and St. Lucie and Syracuse happen here. You can’t simulate that, you have to experience it.”
Baty’s focus at the plate, under the tutelage of hitting coach Jeremy Barnes, has been his pitch selection. That he twice drew walks Sunday against a tough pitcher in Orioles right-hander Kyle Bradish was something upon which Baty hoped he could build.
Defensively he continues to work with infield coach Joey Cora on staying in a manageable position to field grounders.
“Playing third base as a taller guy you have got to stay I guess on your legs a little bit more, but not like all the way down,” Baty said. “If you get all the way down it’s just more taxing on your body. I am just trying to stay relaxed and comfortable over there.”
The Mets began this season hoping to find their third baseman of the future, but now it appears they will head to 2024 with the position unsettled.
Team officials will have to decide if it’s better for Baty to work on his game at Syracuse or if their goal of placing a respectable product on the field over these last 51 games would suffer without him.