When Brett Baty lasted until the 12th overall selection in Monday night’s MLB Draft, the Mets may have felt giddy. As esteemed MLB Network draft and minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo has claimed, Baty is, “the best high school bat in the draft.”
That statement may be straightforward, but it overlooked the largest criticism of Baty. Some argue he shouldn’t be in high school at all.
Baty is already 19 and will soon turn 20. He’s more than a full year older than most of the other high school players in the draft. As a result, many teams dinged his rating for his age. The argument is simple: Rather than racking up absurd high school statistics — a .624 batting average and .745 OBP with 19 home runs and 50 RBI is good, right? — Baty should already be competing in the minor leagues.
Naturally, that wasn’t enough to dissuade the Mets from selecting Baty due to his enormous perceived potential. That swing is gorgeous whether it’s coming against high school, collegiate or pro pitching. But even all Baty’s potential comes with the relative taint of other 19-year-old high school players that have been drafted in the first round, as chronicled by Baseball America:
The last 19-year-old first-rounder to post 5 or more wins above replacement in their career is outfielder Ben Revere, the Twins’ first-round pick in 2007. Former Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon (21.3 WAR) and Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal (15.3 WAR) are only two 19-year-old prep draftees of the past 30 years to post more than 10 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Even those cautionary tales may not be worth delving into related to Baty’s selection. But they do highlight why so many other teams may have shied away.
Luckily, Baty’s own connection with this is more agricultural, and potentially game-chanigng. Baty is still likely to sign with the Mets rather than honor his commitment to Texas. It’s just that the Mets front office and fans will hope that Baty turns out to be a lot more like Nixon or Lieberthal than Blake Swihart, who is still attempting to break through, now with Arizona.