Mets' Mark Vientos looks to veterans for defensive improvement, hopes of earning roster spot
Mets prospect Mark Vientos is in a precarious spot with the organization.
Touted as a third baseman, Vientos -- the No. 8 prospect on the Mets -- doesn’t have a spot on the team. With veteran Eduardo Escobar and fellow prospects Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio -- the organization’s Nos. 2 and 6 prospects -- occupying the position ahead of him, Vientos will have to try and use every opportunity to show the team he’s capable of being in the major leagues.
That’s why this year’s spring training is so important for the 23-year-old. This is Vientos’ first spring where he’s getting, essentially, everyday at-bats. It’s a big test to show what he can do. However, entering Saturday, the Connecticut native was just 4-for-17 with zero home runs and just two RBI.
But that all turned around Saturday when Vientos went 3-for-4 with two monster home runs and a total of five RBI in the Mets’ 15-4 shelling of the Miami Marlins.
"I was messing around with Brett and Ronny the other day. I was like, 'You guys have some [homers]. I've got to get me one,'" Vientos said with a laugh. “Finally got me two so it was nice to get out of the way.”
Baty and Mauricio are having great springs and showing power. Vientos is hoping to keep up with them, but while there’s innate competition this spring all three are thriving being at big league camp together this year.
“We’re just helping each other out, learning from each other,” he said. “Asking questions to the veteran guys. Just trying to get 1% better every day. So far, we’re doing what we need to do and keep working.”
Vientos does have a leg up on Mauricio in that he has big-league experience. The Mets called up their prospect in September last season, and in limited playing time Vientos went 6 for 36 (.167) with a home run and three RBI.
But more important than getting at-bats was the time around the veterans, especially with Escobar.
“Escy is the man -- I’ve been working with him at third base, Pete [Alonso] at first base,” Vientos said. “Ever since I got called up last year, all I do is listen, listen, listen. I’m just trying to get 1% better and learn something new every day.”
Vientos says the biggest thing he learned from Escobar was to respect the game and the work needed to be in the majors. He was told that he needs to work every day or the game will “bite you in the butt.”
Of course, Vientos was also able to learn a lot about playing third base and he “feels good” this spring at the position.
“My agility and first-step quickness, been working on it in the offseason,” he explained. “Feel good at both spots, Get better every day, ask questions. Escobar has been telling me about the positions. [Mets bench coach Eric Chavez], he’s been telling me about the pre-pitch setup. That’s a big factor in seeing the ground balls.”
While Vientos continues to hone his craft, the team will eventually have to figure out where he slots in their organization. And that may result in a position change.
Saturday, Vientos started at third base but he also started three games -- and appeared in three others -- at first base. While Alonso mans that position, it’ll help the power hitter to get some rest while playing DH. If Vientos can become a better defensive first baseman and more consistent hitter, it could resolve the Mets’ DH issues.
But that’s an issue for the future. In the meantime, Vientos is looking to just become an everyday player no matter where they want him to on the diamond.
"I'm happy to be on the field everyday no matter where it is,” he said. “I play third base, but my focus is to play every single day in the major leagues. That’s what I’m focused on. Whether it’s first, third I want to help this team as much as I can.”