Name: Mark Vientos
Weight: 185 lbs.
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, 2nd Round (American Heritage High School, Florida)
2022 Stats: 101 G, 378 AB, .280/.358/.519, 106 H, 16 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 44 BB, 122 K, 0/2 SB, .350 BABIP (Triple-A)
The son of a Dominican immigrant who left the island nation for New York City, Mark Vientos had his Mets fandom passed down from father-to-son. Growing up in southern Florida, Vientos established himself on the exhibition and showcase circuit and had already established himself as a name to watch among scouts and evaluators even before the start of his high school career. He played ball at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida for three years, but in 2016, switched schools and began attending American Heritage High School in Plantation, a few miles south. He only appeared in 26 games for the American Heritage High School Patriots, missing some time in the spring due to a quad injury, but he made his time on the field count, hitting .417/.467/.523 with one home run and four stolen bases in six attempts. The 17-year-old was considered a borderline first-round talent, but the lost time from the quad injury coupled with his commitment to the University of Miami caused multiple teams to pass over him in the 2017 MLB Draft. The Mets were among the handful of teams that had scouted the teen, and with their second round pick, the 59th overall pick, selected Vientos. The negotiations moved quickly, with Vientos already leaning towards going pro, and the two sides agreed to a $1.5 million signing bonus, slightly above the MLB-assigned slot value of $1,094,700.
The Mets assigned Vientos to the GCL Mets to begin his professional career and he held his own as one of the youngest players in the league, hitting .259/.316/.397 in 47 games with 4 home runs, 0 stolen bases in 2 attempts, and 14 walks to 42 strikeouts. He got into a handful of games with the Kingsport Mets at the end of the season and then spent all of 2018 with them, hitting .287/.389/.489 in 60 games with 11 home runs, 1 stolen base in as many attempts, and drawing 37 walks to 43 strikeouts.
The Mets were aggressive with the third baseman in 2019, assigning him to the Low-A Columbia Fireflies instead of holding him back in extended spring training and assigning him to the Short-A Brooklyn Cyclones in June. Vientos had a somewhat disappointing year in terms of expectations placed on him, but still was an above-average offensive force in the middle of the Fireflies lineup, hitting .255/.300/.411 in 111 games with 12 home runs, 1 stolen base in 5 attempts, and 22 walks to 110 strikeouts. Of note, two things were remarkable about Mark’s season: his spike in strikeouts and the stark difference in his first and second halves; Vientos hit.240/.286/.364 with 5 home runs and a 12 walks to 58 strikeouts in the first half and .270/.315/.464 with 7 home runs, 10 walks, and 51 strikeouts in the second half.
The 2020 season was going to be exciting for Vientos in that we would see which Vientos was the real deal, but unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not get to play- though he was invited to the Coney Island alternate site and the fall instructional league later in the year, where he impressed many in the organization. Minor league baseball returned in 2021 and Vientos was assigned to the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the second-youngest players in the league for much of the season. His 2021 season mirrored his 2019 season a great deal, in that he struggled early on but hit his stride later in the season, eventually earning a promotion to Syracuse at the end of the season. Overall, he hit .281/.352/.581 in 83 games total, 72 in Binghamton and 11 in Syracuse, with a combined 25 home runs, 33 walks, and 100 strikeouts. 33:100 walk:strikeout ratio. Of note, he missed time in August and September due to MiLB health and safety protocols related to COVID-19.
He opened the 2022 season with Syracuse and spent most of the season there, hitting .280/.358/.519 in 101 games with 24 home runs, 44 walks, and 122 strikeouts. For the third consecutive season, he started the season off slowly but hit his stride a few weeks after opening day. In mid-September, with a roster spot opened on the Mets due to Starling Marte being placed on the injured list, the Mets promoted Vientos. Receiving irregular playing time, he appeared in 16 games and got 41 plate appearances, hitting .167/.268/.278 with 1 home run, 5 walks, and 12 strikeouts.
Vientos stands upright and has wide stance at the plate, holding his hands high and wrapping his bat behind his head. He has a minimal load and swings with a toe tap and/or small leg kick. When he makes solid contact, the ball explodes off his bat, a combination of his bat speed, the natural loft from his swing, and torque from utilizing his lower half effectively. He shows power to his pull side and to the opposite field as well, putting a jolt into the ball and regularly posting 100 MPH+ exit velocities on hits to all fields.
When pulling the ball, he is more susceptible to making weak contact and rolling over or under the ball, leading to weak grounders or infield fly balls. When looking to intentionally go to the opposite field, he is able to get full extension and lift the ball, leading to more fly balls. His swing gets long and shows susceptibility to premium velocity and advanced breaking balls, especially when thrown inside, but Vientos does not expand the strike zone much, swinging and missing on pitches in the zone more so than pitches outside of it. His platoon splits reversed themselves in 2021 and 2022, but Vientos has a cumulative .281/.359/.547 batting line against right-handers in 503 at-bats with 31 homeruns, 59 walks, and 162 strikeouts and a .262/.326/.555 batting line against left-handers in 221 at-bats with 9 home runs, 23 walks, and 71 strikeouts in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
While certainly not unathletic, Vientos is simply a low quick-twitch muscle athlete. Though initially drafted as a shortstop, Vientos hasn’t played the position since 2017 and is not expected to move back, instead primarily playing third base while dabbling in first. He has a slow first step and below-average lateral quickness. His average-to-above-average arm and good instincts allow him to handle the routine plays fine at third fine, but if fills in and slows down further in the years to come, he will likely be forced off of the position completely, as he will exhibit even less of a first step and range. Vientos slimmed down a little coming into 2022 and trimmed up a bit, but it did little to make him a better defender. In 2021, he played limited innings in the outfield, and while there is not enough data to make many conclusive remarks about his ability there, based on his lack of an explosive first step, below-average speed, and the fact that he did not play any innings there in 2022, instead playing first, third and DH, it is safe to say that the experiment has concluded that the Vientos is unlikely to ever be a positively contributing defender.
A year after his breakout 2021, Vientos had a near-identical season, this time in Triple-A Syracuse instead of Double-A Binghamton. Back in 2018, I compared Vientos to Nolan Gorman and the comparison still stands, with their numbers, strengths, and weaknesses remaining almost identical all these years later- Gorman admittedly has more defensive value, although at second base with St. Louis he is as poor a defender there as Vientos is at third. Given that Vientos’ path to regular playing time at both third base and first are both blocked in the short and long-term future, it will be interesting to see how the Mets use him. The bat is worth getting into the lineup.
Vientos is a nice right-handed bat to have in your system. His entire track record suggests that he has a real ability to punish lefties, even if he can still get beaten by better velocity. That’s the positive. The list of negatives are unfortunately a good deal longer; he hits the ball on the ground too often, has good-but-not-great exit velocities, struggles to make contact in the zone, and isn’t really viable defensively anywhere except first. Again, a nice right-handed bat to have in your system (so you don’t have to trade for Darin Ruf), but not a longterm building block and certainly someone that should be tradeable to help the major league side.
Vientos is a, in a word, divisive, prospect. He doesn’t truly have a home defensively, even at first base, and had heavy platoon splits in the minor leagues this year, hitting just .250/.326/.409 against righties compared to .315/.401/.692 against lefties. The right handed hitting will not play in the majors, but there is a path to some highly leverage production from him.