Ronny Mauricio homered again, David Peterson's strong outing, and the, "competition" at third base
There's only one path to the starting third base job for either Mark Vientos or Brett Baty out of spring training
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
The Mets got pummeled by the Cardinals by a score of 12-7 on Monday in Jupiter (box)
David Peterson needed just 25 pitches over his two scoreless innings
Luis Guillorme drove in two runs and turned an acrobatic double play with his 2-for-3 day at the plate (photo)
Ronny Mauricio homered for the second straight day on Monday, although he did misplay a ball at shortstop upon entering the game
Mauricio is making every effort to make the team out of camp (New York Post)
MLB.com has once again ranked Francisco Álvarez the Mets best prospect in 2023, followed by Brett Baty, Kevin Parada, Alex Ramirez, Jett Williams, and Mauricio (link)
Mets bench coach Eric Chávez feels he is getting closer to becoming a manager (New York Post)
Buck Showalter isn’t thrilled that so many of his players are leaving for the World Baseball Classic (Newsday)
Today’s Game 🦩
Game 5️⃣ of 3️⃣0️⃣
Match-up: Astros vs. Mets
Where: Clover Park, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Starters: LHP Jose Quintana vs. RHP Luis García
When: 1:10 PM EDT
Where to Watch: SNY
Is there really a competition at third base? ✍🏻
Throughout the early days and weeks of camp, there’s been this persistent conversation about a competition at third base between Eduardo Escobar, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos. In addition, Billy Eppler - among others - have been asked at times whether or not Ronny Mauricio will be shifting to third base, which would in-turn add him into this mix.
(Mauricio is not moving to third base right now, per Eppler)
But here’s the thing - is there really a competition at third base on this club?
The truth is, probably not. And there never really was. Escobar is the Mets third baseman.
For now anyway.
First off, Escobar is a really, really, really important piece to their dynamic. He’s an effervescent personality which is important for the club’s chemistry. Yes, outside of September, Escobar had a really difficult season on both sides of the ball, but he recently admitted to reporters he was dealing with a personal problem throughout the 2022 season which might’ve impacted his performance.
But he is still a very good player and from a statistical perspective, there’s nowhere for him to go but up even in his age-34 season in 2023. And despite his overall struggle in 2022 he still produced 20 home runs and an above average OPS+ (thanks to a wonderful September, of course), so all signs are pointing to a rebound for Escobar in 2023.
And despite his -11 defensive runs saved at third base in 2022, he’s probably the best defensive option for the Mets over either Vientos or Baty at this time.
Make no mistake - Baty has come a long way at the position, and I do think his bat would unquestionably play at the big league level right now. But this is an organization which is prioritizing defense over offense when these decisions are on the table (look no further than the Francisco Álvarez situation - he still has yet to log an inning behind the plate this spring, by the way), and I don’t think there’s anyone who would disagree Baty’s defense still needs some polishing before any consideration is made for him to take over at third base.
Then there’s Vientos, who looks like he has a lot of upside offensively. He has a beautiful swing with quick hands, is very athletic and while he has to tone down his strikeouts, he can potentially check a long-term box for them from the right side of the plate. But his defense is a concern, and there’s nothing in his early showing in camp that should alter that opinion. There’s probably not enough offense yet to overcome those defensive shortcomings, and again, with the club making defense their priority, a lot has to happen for Vientos for this to change, and rather quickly at that.
Consider this with Vientos as well - the Mets had him at first base during the intrasquad game, and he was there again on Saturday against the Astros in the Grapefruit League opener. So, they’re clearly trying to find the right fit for Vientos - if that was at third base, would they have had him open the spring schedule at first?
Now, that’s not to say there won’t be opportunities for both to shine in the weeks ahead. With Escobar and Pete Alonso leaving for the World Baseball Classic in the coming days, these prospects are going to have the attention of Buck Showalter and the front office, and these innings will offer opportunities for both to improve.
Will that be enough for them to win the third base job? Is it enough for them to win a job at all?
The only path I see for one of Baty or Vientos (not both) to make the team on Opening Day is if Escobar gets hurt. They both need to start and play regularly, and if Escobar is healthy, the choice is academic which means they both have to go back to Triple-A, play there and hone their defense.
It’s as simple as that.
Then there’s Mauricio, a man without a place to play altogether. But he has a very exciting bat, so the Mets either need to find a home for him on the field, or find him another organization.
But with Manny Machado reportedly signed to a new 11-year contract with the Padres and nobody else of equivalent impact becoming available at the position in the foreseeable future, there is a runway for Mauricio if and only if they decide to test his versatility at another position.
Conceivably, the Mets could send Mauricio back to Triple-A and teach him the ropes at third base. Of course, that would mean the Mets would have to have Baty in left field, which means Vientos would either be at first or the regular designated hitter at Syracuse.
It’s a big puzzle for the Mets to solve for sure. There are no easy answers here. But one thing they know is this - no matter who it is from Álvarez on down, they’re not sacrificing an ounce of defense at the big league level.
Around the League ⚾️
Cubs OF Seiya Suzuki has withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic after injuring his oblique (FOX Sports)
Rays RHP Tyler Glasnow will undergo an MRI for his injured oblique (Tampa Bay Times)
Dodgers SS Gavin Lux will undergo an MRI on his knee following an injury during Monday’s game against the Padres (MLB.com)
The average time of a game is down 23 minutes in spring training thanks to the pitch clock (ESPN)