A dilemma at the hot corner sparks decision making for the New York Mets

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Washington Nationals v New York Mets / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

Now that the New York Mets no longer fortune the luxury of running David Wright out to third base as their everyday starter, the team must evaluate its current condition. Wright, who donned the teams blue and orange for 14 electrifying seasons, has not suited up since his final game in late September of 2018. The Mets have struggled to name a suitable replacement since their latest captain’s retirement, which as a result has hurt them from a performance standpoint.

In the 74 games they have played so far in 2022, Mets infielders Eduardo Escobar, J.D. Davis, and Luis Guillorme have split the majority of time at the hot corner. Escobar has carried the bulk of the load, spending 560.1 innings at third over 63 games, where Davis and Guillorme have shared a combined 102 innings.

NY Mets Eduardo Escobar and J.D. Davis are no longer a solution:

Escobar, who was signed by New York in free agency this past offseason, showcases a disappointing .222 batting average with just 30 runs batted in through the first three months of the 2022 season. The veteran infielder has struck out 74 times in 261 at-bats, making for a 28.4% punch-out rate, while leaving a league-leading 143 runners on base thus far. His whiff rate is in the 28th percentile among all major leaguers. On defense, Escobar has made seven errors, registering a negative seven average in terms of defensive runs saved (the worst mark of his 12-year career). The 33-year-old has recently told reporters at Sportsnet New York that he understands “the frustration of the fans. One day, I am going to give them reasons to cheer for me.” Despite Escobar’s promises, it may be time for the Mets to begin scrambling again for a more effective option at third.

Escobar’s safety net is J.D. Davis, who has been with the Mets since 2019. Davis has yet to return to the pesky hitter he once was in his first year with the club, and a sequence of injuries complimented by a lack of playing time has made it difficult for the 29-year-old to get back on track in finding his groove offensively. Through June, Davis is slashing .243/.335/.347/.683 with 14 runs batted in and 51 strikeouts while struggling mightily against the fastball, a pitch that has plagued him since he suffered a left hand sprain against the Philadelphia Phillies early in his 2021 campaign. Davis possesses a whiff rate of 42.5% and a 23.5% put-away rate when seeing four-seam heaters in 2022, ranking second in the majors behind only Brett Phillips of the Tampa Bay Rays. Davis stings the ball without a doubt, carrying a hard-hit percentage of 72.2 through June, but there is a significant issue in his game: he does not hit the ball (32.5% whiff on all pitch types).

Defensively J.D. Davis has made strides, but at whole he is not the short-term or long-term answer for the Mets. Steve Cohen and the Mets can opt to take several routes in solving the issue that has presented itself over the course of nearly four years: ride Escobar and trust he will come around, increase the role of Guillorme, or call up the organization’s second ranked prospect Brett Baty.

Increasing NY Mets infielder Luis Guillorme's playing time:

Guillorme is a web-gem waiting to unfold at any position he is spotted, not to mention how crafty the defensive wizard is with lumber in his hands. The fifth-year veteran is a quick-twitch hitter whose speedy hands allow him to fight off close pitches from opposing pitchers. A contact bat who hosts stingy at-bats commonly (perhaps most memorably was his 22-pitch spring-training grapple with St. Louis Cardinals starter Jordan Hicks), Guillorme commands the bottom of the Mets order. A .307/.381/.367/.748 slash line does most of the talking for the utility option, who serves as a solid option for the Mets moving forward at the hot corner. Guillorme has belted six doubles and scored 22 runs in 52 games played.

The looming MLB debut of NY Mets prospect Brett Baty:

Though the 12th overall pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft is just 22 years of age, Brett Baty has soared through the Mets minor leagues, and has built up a resume that inevitably looms a major-league debut. Currently listed as the league’s top third-base talent and the second highest prospect in the Mets farm system, Baty has excelled through all levels at the minors. After spending the entirety of 2019 in rookie ball, the lefty bat used two quality months in High A to propel him to Double A Binghamton in 2021 as a member of the Rumble Ponies. There, he has done nothing but mash the baseball and demonstrate a knack for defense at third base.

Baty saw 151 at-bats in 2021 with the Rumble Ponies, and 213 in 2022. He is slashing .276/.371/.434/.805 in Double A with 12 home runs and 43 runs batted in through parts of those two seasons and he is currently riding a 15-game hit streak into July. Baty earned an appearance in Minor League Baseball’s All-Star Futures Game, and played a summer season in the Arizona Fall League, the most prestigious of organizations.

Seemingly electric in the box, Baty is reliable with the leather as well. With Binghamton, he has spent 562 innings at third base in which he has recorded 100 assists and 43 putouts in 159 chances (he has made just 16 errors in that span). Despite struggling in his first Double A experience, Baty raised his 2021 fielding percentage from .862 to .921 thus far in 2022. Baty has focused heavily on his defense throughout his career, especially this past offseason. “We have put emphasis on it, just moving laterally because third base is such a quick position,” Baty told reporters. “You have got to be ready for anything.”

If the Mets opt to hold off on their upcoming star, Baty will be eligible for the league’s Rule 5 Draft in November of 2022, which offers more of an incentive to add the third baseman who promises to cleat third base at Citi Field in the near future regardless. “I am telling myself that whenever it is my time, it is going to be my time,” Baty said in an interview with MLB.com’s Sam Dykstra.

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