Tuesday would have been the biggest night of the Mets prospect Brett Baty’s life if all had gone according to plan. Instead, he missed his initial flight.
Baty found himself hitting in the cage with Class AAA Syracuse in Charlotte when Manager Kevin Boles informed him that the Mets needed him in Atlanta. Naturally, Baty, a 22-year-old third baseman, made a beeline for the airport, but not soon enough, thus delaying his major league debut by a day.
The wait was well worth it.
Baty, the Mets’ No. 2 prospect and the 18th best in baseball, per MLB.com’s rankings, introduced himself with a bang on Wednesday, crushing a two-run home run on the second pitch of his first major league at-bat. He did so with his parents and sister in attendance. Batting eighth and starting at third base, he went 1 for 4 in a 9-7 win over the rival Braves.
“Just pure joy,” Baty told reporters when asked what was going through his mind as he circled the bases following his first home run. “Just to be able to help this ball club out on my first at-bat, and then just to look up and see my family up there. Just being able to celebrate with them, so just pure joy, for sure.”
Baty’s second-inning blast traveled 377 feet, and the ball was returned to him by a security guard. After the game, Baty returned to the field, still in full uniform, to take photos with family for more than an hour after the final pitch.
The immediate impact came on a day when the Mets and the Yankees, both working their way through difficult weeks with games against division rivals, turned to top prospects to offer some lineup depth and a bit of a jolt. The day included rain delays for both clubs, extra innings for the Yankees, and wins all around. But it was Baty who set himself apart with one mighty swing.
Unsurprisingly, Baty was in the starting lineup once again for Thursday’s series finale against Atlanta, batting eighth and playing third base. He singled off Atlanta’s Max Fried in his first at-bat of the Mets’ 3-2 loss Thursday.
Baty’s arrival in the big leagues has come after only six games at Class AAA. He was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft and steadily worked his way up. He was hitting .312 with a .406 on-base percentage, .544 slugging percentage and 19 home runs over 89 Games at Class AA Binghamton this season when he got the call up to Syracuse on Aug. 8.
He adjusted to the next level quickly, going 8 for 22 (.364) in his brief stint at the top level of the minors.
“It wasn’t on my mind at all,” Baty told reporters of the possibility of being promoted to the majors so quickly. “I was just thinking about winning ballgames for Syracuse. But now I’m here, so win ballgames for the New York Mets.”
Even with a fan base clamoring for the franchise to call up its top prospects, the Mets tried to exercise some patience with Baty. The team did not call him up when Luis Guillorme hit the injured list with a strained left groin, but third baseman Eduardo Escobar’s hitting the I.L. with a left oblique strain made the call necessary.
Baty, who grew up in Round Rock, Texas, and was drafted out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, said he was not putting any expectations on himself. The Mets are trying to do the same in a key stretch where they are looking to protect their lead over Atlanta in the National League East, which stood at 4.5 games through Wednesday.
“I know it’s a big moment in his life and organizationally and fans and what have you,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter told reporters pregame on Wednesday. “We all love to see guys from our own system come up here, but the last thing I’m going to do is be someone that makes it even harder.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, had their own long day that ended in glory, even if the prospects they called up did not make a splash.
Outfielder Estevan Florial and utility man Oswaldo Cabrera had both been playing well at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but their ascension had more to do with issues at the major league level than it did with their readiness. The Yankees own a 10-game lead in the American League East after third baseman Josh Donaldson belted a walk-off grand slam in extra innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, but the club had won just three games this month before the promotions and was .500 in July after looking like a juggernaut over the first three months of the season.
Despite the timing of Florial and Cabrera’s promotions, Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees were not “counting on them being the revelation that turns us around.”
“Sure, we want a spark and we want to get things going offensively, but they’re here because they’ve earned their way here,” Boone continued Wednesday afternoon. “We feel like, moving forward, they give us a couple good pieces that can help us win ballgames.”
Florial and Cabrera both were hitless in the Yankees’ 8-7 win over the Rays, but they both have a shot at frequent playing time. Both players started again in Thursday’s 9-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Florial scored a run in the third inning, and Cabrera recorded his first career hit, a double into right center off José Berríos, in the fourth with his parents watching from the stands. He added a single in the seventh.
Cabrera, 23, is New York’s 14th-best prospect. A Venezuelan, he made his M.L.B. debut on Wednesday, which included an animated response for Yankee Stadium’s Bleacher Creatures.
“This is like a dream,” Cabrera, who also got to play in front of his parents Wednesday, told reporters before the game. “I’m just living it, just enjoying the moment.”
Florial, 24, the Yankees’ No. 15 prospect, has yet to live up to the lofty expectations previously set for him. Injuries have played a role in that, but after a few cups of coffee earlier this year, this call-up could be the extended opportunity he needs to prove he is worth keeping around.
“We have a great ball club here,” he said Wednesday. “Without me, they’d still be great. I just come here to help in any way I can. For me, it’s no pressure at all.”