I don’t think there is a prospect in the system who has increased his stock more than third baseman Mark Vientos, who was just recently promoted to Triple-A Syracuse for the final few days of the minor league season.
Vientos, not unlike some other prospects, took a bit of a different path due to the canceled minor league season in 2020.
Vientos played the entirety of the 2019 season in Low-A Columbia and would have presumably played 2020 in High-A. With the season canceled, the Mets had a choice in 2021 to either send Vientos to High-A Brooklyn or be aggressive and place the 21-year-old in Double-A Binghamton. They decided, especially with the presence of Brett Baty at the same position and a similar level that they’d choose to put Vientos in Double-A.
It was not smooth sailing right from the jump, as Vientos struggled mightily in the month of May, hitting .231 with a .279 on-base percentage and three home runs in 21 games.
"It was getting comfortable with the league and getting my feet under me." Vientos told SNY on the latest episode of Mets Prospective.
In June, Vientos really turned it around by hitting .324 with a .407 on-base percentage and hitting nine home runs in 18 games, including a stretch of six home runs in six games.
He continued the hot hitting into July and the beginning part of August before he missed a little time due to COVID protocols with Double-A Binghamton. On July 29th, he hit his 20th home run of the season, which puts him in a unique category.
Since 2006, there are only seven players to hit 20+ home runs with a .920 or better OPS before turning 22 in Double-A. Some of the notable names Vientos shares that list with are Javier Baez, Mike Moustakas, Giancarlo Stanton, and Evan Longoria.
One of the notable conversations he had was with Lindor.
"He told me to know that I belong wherever I go," Vientos said. "It could be Double-A, Triple-A or the Major Leagues. Be confident in your ability at all times and compete."
Vientos believes that his competitive side helped him turn around his early struggles at Double-A.
Third base had been the only position that Vientos played since getting to full-season ball in 2019. That would begin to change because on July 14, Baty would get the promotion from High-A Brooklyn to Double-A Binghamton.
At that point, it was going to be about versatility for both Baty and Vientos. Vientos split his time this year between third base, first base, and a new position in left field.
"I have never played outfield until this year," Vientos said, "At first I was kind of uncomfortable, but I am better now for sure."
Having that versatility to play all three positions will prove beneficial as he continues his path to the major leagues, as third base and left field are probably the two spots where the Mets have the most questions as to who will fill them for the long-term with the uncertainty surrounding the futures of guys like Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis.
For me, Vientos took huge strides in becoming a more complete hitter despite being two years younger than the average age at the Double-A level.
In Low-A in 2019 he had power and hit the ball hard, but he needed a lot of work on his pitch recognition skills. That doesn’t mean just drawing walks, but it means being selective and finding pitches to hit hard.
He accomplished that in 2021, and in my opinion, he has the potential to be a 25-home-run bat at the big league level when he gets there.
I expect Vientos to begin the 2022 season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he will be simply a call away from the majors. It will be a special moment for him and his family when he finally gets that call, as his dad grew up a Mets fan and brought Vientos to Shea Stadium as a kid in the mid-2000s to see players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
Might we see another Grandpa Matz clip? Time will tell on the reaction, but Vientos is a name to keep an eye on who is on the verge of turning that major league dream into a reality.