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Brett Baty and the impact of the cancelled 2020 minor league season

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The lack of a 2020 minor league season impacted all players, but arguably, nobody was more impacted by it than Brett Baty.

Brett Baty
Steve Sypa

The lack of a 2020 season hurt the development of every player in the Mets minor league system. Given his unique background, the lack of a season may have hurt Brett Baty more than others. Back in 2010, when Brett was 11, his parents made the decision to hold their son back a year. An increasingly common practice occurring across the United States, many athletes are voluntarily held back a year in order to gain competitive advantages over peers. According to his father, a coach and teacher at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, “Brett was one of the younger ones in his class. All my better athletes had been older ones. [His mother] became the principal and we kept him there one more year, in fifth grade.” Leslie and Clint’s decision would end up being a major reason why Brett was still available when the time came for the Mets to make their selection in the 2019 MLB Draft. Having shown the ability to hit for both average and power, the senior was considered by most industry sources one of the best, if not the best, high school hitters in his draft class. Has Baty been a 17 or 18-year-old, on draft day, instead of a 19-year-old, it is likely that he would not have been available at 12, when the Mets made their first selection.

While his situation is uncommon, it is not unique. In the 55-year history of the MLB Rule 4 Draft, twenty players have been selected in the first round as 19-year-old high school players: Richie Hebner in 1966, Ron Sorey in 1974, Shawon Dunston in 1982, Steve Pegues in 1987, Earl Cunningham in 1989, Mike Lieberthal in 1990, Trot Nixon and Charles Peterson in 1993, Josh Booty and Mark Farris in 1994, Joe Lawrence in 1996, Corey Myers in 1999, C.J. Henry in 2005, Pete Kozma, Ben Revere and Wendell Fairley in 2007, Anthony Hewitt in 2008, Blake Swihart in 2011, Blake Rutherford in 2016, and Bubba Thompson in 2017. Dunston, Hebner, Kozma, Lieberthal, Nixon, and Revere would all go on to have lengthy major league careers. Booty, Lawrence, Pegues, and Swihart developed into a fringe major leaguers that accrued service time but never particularly established themselves. Cunningham, Henry, Hewitt, Fairley, Farris, Myers, Peterson, Sorey, would never make it to the majors. Rutherford and Thompson are still too young to prognosticate their fates.

Making matters more complicated for Baty is the fact that we are living in unprecedented times. None of the other first-round 19-year-old prep draftees that came before him ever missed considerable playing time during a critical time of their baseball maturation due to a global pandemic. Because the minor league season cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19, Baty will be entering the 2021 season a 21-year-old with no meaningful experience above Rookie-level ball, putting him further behind the eight ball.

Regardless of his age and experience, Baty still has loud, powerful tools. He possesses easy plus raw power through a combination of his own raw strength, a quick bat, and the torque from his lower half. He has a smooth, easy swing with a natural feel for using the entire field. There are some concerns regarding his ability to make consistent contact against more advanced pitchers, but most scouts and evaluators believe that his hit tool will improve enough to allow his power to manifest in-game with enough regularity to develop into a middle-of-the-order power threat. His eye at the plate is advanced, allowing him to foul and lay off of borderline pitches, duel with pitchers, get into a favorable counts, and draw walks. Defensively, Baty is currently capable third baseman. His arm grades out well above-average. While his mobility is something of a concern, as he lacks much quick-twitch muscle, is slow to react and reach balls, and sometimes is forced to rush, his well above-average arm masks many of his deficiencies. As he ages, he may be forced to move off third base entirely, but for the near future, there is no reason for concern.

With the 2020 season having not taken place altogether and the structure of the minor leagues having fundamentally changed, the case can be made for Baty to begin the 2021 season with the Low-A St. Lucie Mets or the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Regardless of where he starts, there is little possibility that he has an impact on the 2021 Mets.