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Mark Vientos is closer to the show than you think

The slugging third baseman could conceivably be ready for a MLB cup of coffee at the end of the season.

Mark Vientos
Steve Sypa

When the Mets drafted Mark Vientos in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the case could be made that they were getting a steal. With prospect fatigue setting in after years of being scouted on the showcase circuit, a quad injury that limited his playing time during his senior year at American Heritage High School, and a commitment to the University of Miami that was considered fairly strong, teams passed over the borderline first-round talent, allowing the Mets to select him with the 59th overall pick. He signed with the Mets fairly quickly, receiving a $1,500,000 signing bonus— roughly $400,000 above the MLB-assigned slot value of $1,094,700—and split the rest of the summer with the GCL and Kingsport Mets, with whom the 17-year-old hit a combined .262/.318/.398 with 4 home runs in 51 games. He would spend the entire 2018 season with the Kingsport Mets, hitting .287/.389/.489 with 11 home runs in 60 games, comparing very favorably to some of the best prospects in the game, such as Wander Franco and Nolan Gorman. With expectations high, the 19-year-old hit .255/.300/.411 with 12 home runs in 111 games the following year.

While much has been written about how much of a disappointment Vientos’ 2019 season was, it is important to put the year in context: As one of the youngest players in the league, playing in a league and stadium that slightly depresses offense, he still posted a slightly-above average 105 wRC+. In the first half, the third baseman hit .240/.286/.364 with 5 home runs— including a dreadful homestand when I saw him in June where he went 5-24 and was the lowest point of his season— and in the second half, he hit .270/.315/.464 with 7 home runs.

While the surface numbers were poor and concerning for a top prospect, Vientos continued flashing the tools that made him a high priority follow prior to the draft and an organizational top prospect after.

Standing tall at the plate with high hands, Vientos has plus raw power. When he makes solid contact, he can put a jolt in the ball, posting exit velocity readings in the high-90s and beyond. His swing is long and he has shown difficulty picking up spin, making him vulnerable to breaking balls and raising concerns about his ability to make enough contact to manifest his prodigious power in game. His future will be dependent on his ability to make more consistent contact.

With the glove, Vientos is a perfectly cromulent third baseman and should be able to handle playing third base for years to come. He is not unathletic in the traditional sense, but lacks explosive quick twitch muscle, resulting in a slow first step and below-average lateral quickness. He makes up for this with an above-average arm and good instincts, allowing him to handle the routine plays at third base with no difficulty.

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 Vientos to begin the 2021 season with the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones or the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. While not necessarily knocking on the major league door this spring, a healthy performance during the season could put him on the shortlist for September call-ups.