Sunday Notes: Mets Prospect Brett Baty Does More Than Bash

Brett Baty has a bright future, and he’s showing glimpses of why in his first full professional season. Just 21 years old, the left-handed-hitting third baseman is slashing .291/.378/.471 with 12 home runs in 378 plate appearances between High-A Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton. Moreover, he’s doing so with a first-round pedigree. Baty was drafted 12th overall by the New York Mets in 2019 out of an Austin, Texas high school.

On paper, he’s a slugger. Ranked No. 2 on our updated Mets Top Prospects list, Baty was described by Eric Longenhagen prior to the season as having “light tower power.” His M.O. differs from that description.

“I like to say that I’m a hitter before the power, and the power is just going to come,” said the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Baty. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard, wherever it’s pitched. I don’t want to get too pull-happy — try to hit pull-side home runs — so I’m up there thinking ‘line drive to left-center, line drive up the middle.’ Basically, I’m trying to stay within myself at the plate and hit balls hard, wherever they might land.”

Watching balls land over the fence is a thrill for any hitter, and that’s especially true for prospects looking to validate their first-round bona fides. But again, Baty shies away from the bopper label.

“Me and my teammates joke all the time about not being so much of a five o’clock hitter, but rather being more of a seven o’clock hitter,” the young corner infielder told me. “Yeah, you can show it off in BP and everything, but nobody’s there to watch you do that. They’re there to see you perform in the game. When I’m trying to do too much is when I go bad — I’ll start pulling off balls — so I just try to stay up the middle and to left-center.”

The showing off in batting practice is kept to a minimum. In the first two rounds, Baty likes to let the ball get deep and go to the opposite field. Line drives are the primary focus. He’ll then “let it loose a little bit” in the third round, but after that it’s time to get back to business. In his fourth and final round, Baty will “finish up with line drives, trying to feel what I’m going to feel in the game.”

But again, the power is premium. Baty initially demurred when asked about the longest home run he’s hit in pro ball, but after a bit of prodding he allowed that there was “one in Binghamton that went something like 440 [feet].” Atypically pull-side, the blast brings us back to what he’s looking to do at the dish.

“Yeah, man, I’m really just trying to stay inside the ball as much as I can,” said Baty, remaining on point with his philosophy. “I’m trying to hit the inner half of the ball, because like I said, when I’m going good I’m letting the ball travel and seeing it deep. That allows me to make better swing decisions. It’s almost a mistake if I catch a ball out front and pull it down the line. I’ve always been taught to think middle, and I try to stay within that approach.”

The teaching has more recently included a tweak to his swing mechanics. Asked about his bat path having been described as steep in this year’s Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Baty shared that he’s been “working a lot with the analytical guys on attack angle” and is now “keeping a better on-plane efficiency.” There is still swing-and-miss to Baty’s game — his strikeout rate is 25.7% on the season — but not enough to where he profiles as an all-or-nothing slugger. Light tower power notwithstanding, he aspires to be much more than that.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Chuck Workman went 4 for 6 against Hod Lisenbee.

Hank Workman went 1 for 4 against Harry Taylor.

Bob Meusel went 1 for 2 against Hoge Workman.

Kendrys Morales went 6 for 12 against Brandon Workman.

Tillie Walker went 2 for 4 against Ralph Works.

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In a game played at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium on September 1, 1971, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh’s starting nine of Rennie Stennett, Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernandez, and Dock Ellis was the first in MLB history made up entirely of Black and Latino players.

The Pirates celebrated the 50th anniversary of the memorable occasion this past Wednesday evening. Earlier that day, Cash, Cline, Oliver, and Sanguillen — as well as Roberto Clemente Jr. — were made available to the media via Zoom. Asked why the five-decades-old milestone garnered relatively little attention at the time, Oliver — now a minister and advocate for diversity — responded with thoughtful eloquence.

“[It was] a situation where a lot of people might have taken it for granted,” opined Oliver, who spent 10 of his 18 big-league seasons in Pittsburgh. “The Pirates were always loaded with Latin players [and] they were always loaded with Black players, so to see [those nine] players on the field was no big deal. I think that’s the reason why it wasn’t a big thing at that time. Some of the players, at that time, didn’t realize that we had made history. We definitely didn’t take the field to make history, but it was history.”

Oliver went on to say that then-Pirates general manager Joe Brown wasn’t concerned about race. As the former batting champion and seven-time All-Star put it, “We signed players because they could play, not the church they went to… The thing I feel great about is that it happened approximately three years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. This is what he was trying to explain to our society: when we come together as one, good things can happen.”

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A quiz:

Following the 1974 season, the Atlanta Braves traded 40-year-old Hank Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a PTBNL (Roger Alexander) and a veteran outfielder. Who was the outfielder?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

SABR’S Women in Baseball Conference will be held virtually this coming week, on September 10-12. Information can be found here.

Takumi Kuriyama became the 54th player with 2,000 career hits in Japanese professional baseball on Saturday. The 38-year-old outfielder is the first to reach that milestone while spending his entire career with the Seibu Lions. [per jballallen.com]

The Detroit Tigers made multiple changes to their front office this week. Most notably, Sam Menzin and Jay Sartori were promoted and will now share the title Vice President/Assistant General Manager. Menzin had been Director of Baseball operations and Professional Scouting. Sartori was Senior Director of Baseball Analytics and Operations.

The Colorado Rockies have hired Scott Van Lenten as their Director of Research and Development. A former contributor to the FanGraphs Community Research blog, Van Lenten had been working as a Senior Analyst for the Washington Nationals.

Janson Junk, acquired by the Angels from the Yankees at this summer’s trade deadline, is slated to make his MLB debut this afternoon. The 25-year-old right-hander was a guest on episode 929 of FanGraphs Audio a few weeks in early July.

Johnny Bench announced on Friday that he’s tested positive for COVID and won’t be attending the upcoming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The 73-year-old Hall of Famer added that he was told by a doctor that he would be in the hospital had he not been vaccinated.

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The answer to the quiz is Dave May. A left-handed-hitting outfielder whose career spanned the 1967-1978 seasons, May is the only player to have been traded for Hank Aaron.

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The Red Sox are contending with a COVID outbreak. Nine players, most notably Xander Bogaerts and Enrique Hernandez, have gone on the COVID-related injury list in the past week due to either a positive test or close-contact protocols. A pair of coaches have been sidelined as well.

Chaim Bloom, the club’s Chief Baseball Officer, said the following when addressing the issue on Wednesday:

“I wish everybody in our organization were vaccinated, and for that matter, everybody, period, who is eligible,” Bloom told reporters. “I’m a strong proponent of vaccination, and so is our organization. Every person in this organization that isn’t vaccinated pains me. We know that the Delta variant is a different animal, and even against the Delta variant, the data do suggest that vaccination still helps. At the same time, even though that’s true in the aggregate, in terms of this specific situation we have a lot of breakthrough infections. There’s no real way to know if it would have been different if we had a higher vaccination rate or not.”

The Red Sox, battling for a playoff spot, are one of seven teams that reportedly haven’t met MLB’s 85-percent vaccination threshold, which allows for relaxed protocols.

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Cedric Mullins was featured last month in an installment of the Talks Hitting series. When I sat down with the Orioles outfielder for that conversation, I asked him if he aspires to follow in the footsteps of Adam Jones and become the face of the franchise, particularly in the eyes of Baltimore’s African-American community.

“He’s someone I look up to in high regard,’ responded Mullins, who has 24 home runs, 25 steals, and a 145 wRC+ on the season. “He’s someone I know that I can contact, and he’ll give me advice on situations if I need it. He’s someone whose legacy in Baltimore will stand the test of time. If I’m lucky enough to be in the organization as long as he was, my goal is to build off of what he’s done in the community.”

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FARM REPORT

Tanner Nishioka homered twice for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs on August 30th, then proceeded to announce his retirement the following day. A graduate of Pomona College, the 26-year-old native of Hawaii majored in neuroscience before being taken in the ninth round of the 2017 draft by the Boston Red Sox. He plans to attend medical school.

Rio Gomez has thrown 22 scoreless innings over 14 relief outings for Double-A Portland since the beginning of July. The 26-year-old southpaw — Boston’s 36th-round pick in 2017 — is the son of the late ESPN reporter and broadcaster Pedro Gomez.

Xzavion Curry has thrown 16 scoreless innings over his last three starts for the High-A Lake County Captains. The 23-year-old right-hander in the Cleveland organization is 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA, and he has 115 strikeouts to go with just 14 walks.

Graham Ashcraft is 11-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 101 innings between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga. A 23-year-old right-hander in the Cincinnati system, Ashcraft has 118 strikeouts and a 58.8% ground-ball rate.

Anderson Pilar is 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA in 58-and-two-thirds innings with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies. A 22-year-old right-hander in the Colorado system, Pilar has walked 14\5 and fanned 54.

Chris Wright is 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 17 saves between Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene. A 22-year-old left-hander in the San Francisco system, Wright has thrown 40 innings and allowed 18 hits. He has 69 strikeouts.

Noel Vela is 1-10 with a 3.46 ERA in 80-and-two-thirds innings between Low-A Lake Elsinore and High-A Fort Wayne. The 22-year-old left-hander in the San Diego system has allowed 63 hits and has 94 strikeouts.

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Luis Gonzalez turned 54 this past Friday, and being a fan of B-Ref’s similarity scores, I checked out who the erstwhile All-Star most closely matches up with statistically, As coincidence would have it, I found that the answer is Dave Parker, whose new autobiography, Cobra, I had finished reading mere minutes before doing the search.

Here are some of their numbers:

Parker: 2,712 hits, 4,385 totals bases, 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs, 120 wRC+, .354 wOBA, 41.1 fWAR.

Gonzalez: 2,591 hits, 4,405 total bases, 354 home runs, 1,439 RBIs, 118 wRC+, .364 wOBA, 55.2 fWAR.

Was Gonzalez the better of the two players? My inclination is to say that he wasn’t, but the numbers are thought-provoking. If nothing else, Gonzalez had a far better career than many might realize.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Detroit News, Tony Paul shared how the Little League World Series championship team from Taylor, Michigan received invaluable instruction at a facility founded by former Los Angeles Dodgers first-round pick Justin Orenduff.

At The Eagle-Tribune [Andover, MA], Mac Cerullo wrote about how the Tampa Bay Rays, low payroll and all, have perfected a winning formula.

Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina made their 300th career start together as a battery on Friday night. Derrick Goold offered some thoughts on the milestone for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

At The Sporting News, Ryan Fagan laid out how Ron Washington uses a fungo bat to teach defense and life.

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi wrote about Ted Simmons — “one of the most eloquent and detailed orators in recent baseball memory” — whose Hall of Fame speech has been a long time in the making.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Juan Soto leads all qualified hitters with a .447 OBP. The 22-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder has a .424 OBP in 437 career games.

Trea Turner went into last night leading all qualified hitters with a .322 batting average. In 1921, a total of 22 hitters batted .323 or higher. Rogers Hornsby (.397), Harry Heilmann (.394), Ty Cobb (.389), and Babe Ruth (.378) led the way.

Bryce Harper is slashing .311/.459/.596 with 12 home runs in 205 career plate appearances versus the Washington Nationals.

Jimmie Foxx played 18 seasons in the American League, all with the Philadelphia A’s and the Boston Red Sox. He excelled against both. Foxx slashed .343/.442/.584 with 31 home runs versus the Red Sox. He slashed .351/.446/.657 with 32 home runs versus the A’s.

Joe Mauer had 143 home runs and 939 walks. Javier Báez has 144 home runs and 146 walks.

Salvador Perez has 40 home runs this year. He’s drawn 41 walks since the start of the 2018 season.

In 1958, Vic Power came to the plate 620 times and had 16 home runs, 20 walks, and 14 strikeouts. An infielder for both Kansas City and Cleveland that season, Power slashed .312/.332/.490 and won the first of his seven Gold Gloves.

On today’s date in 1955, Don Newcombe hit his seventh home run of the season and reached the 20-win mark for the second time as the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-4. Newcombe finished the year 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA, and a .359/.395/.632 slash line.

On today’s date in 1976, Larry Christenson homered twice to help his own cause as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the New York Mets 3-1. The third-overall pick in the 1972 draft, Christenson debuted the following year at age 19 and went on to spend all 11 of his big-league seasons with the Phillies. His won-lost record was 83-71.

Players born on today’s date include Ron Rightnowar, who pitched in 13 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995. The right-hander out of Eastern Michigan University made his MLB debut at age 30 and went on to be credited with two wins and a save.

Also born on today’s date was Gil Patterson, a right-hander whose big-league playing career comprised 10 games for the New York Yankees in 1977. Patterson is currently the minor league pitching coordinator for the Oakland A’s.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Of course the 1971 Pirates went on to win the World Series. And that wasn’t the regular lineup. Bob Robertson usually started at first. Richie Hebner was the strong side platoon 3rd baseman. Bill Mazeroski, star of the 1961 World Series, was a backup 2b. Clemente was also a star of the 1961 team and won the MVP in the 1971 World Series.

Willie Stargell had joined the Pirates in 1962. And was still on the team on the We Are Family 1979 World Series champs. As was Rennie Stennett.