On Thursday, MLB.com named Mark Vientos as the Mets' Hitting Prospect of the Year.
Vientos' stats from this past season are not overly impressive as he hit .255 with a .300 OBP, 12 home runs and 27 doubles in 111 games in Single A. However, at just 19 years old and two years removed from being a senior in high school, because he made improvements and completed his first 100-game season, he is finally getting the recognition he deserves as a potential big-league third baseman.
"He's as close to a professional hitter as you'll find in the minors," a team insider told me during spring training. "He's got raw power, but needs to start going the other way more and reduce the hitch in his swing, which is something coaches will work on with him this spring."
"We viewed him as having the potential of a Eric Hosmer," a Florida area scout told me this past summer. "He has quick hands, good bat speed, hard strength and an advanced approach at the plate for his age. He is starting to show signs that he can be a real masher."
The way it stands now, with Todd Frazier being a free agent at the end of this season, third base in 2020 will probably be occupied by a combination of J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil.
The same can probably be said for 2021, at which point Vientos could be ready for his big-league debut. However, most experts that have watched him play tell me Vientos will need to be moved off third base sooner than later as he develops more size and strength.
"He's built like Kris Bryant, Alex Rodriguez when those guys were his age," the same scout said. "He already doesn't have the best range because of his height, which will only get less when he starts maturing and adding muscle. I'm not saying he can't stick at third, those guys did, but it's rare you see someone 6' 4" and 200 pounds holding down that side of the infield."
For what it's worth, he's right.
Rodriguez's submitted scouting report at the Hall of Fame has him listed with the same height (6' 4") and similar weight (180 lbs) as Vientos is today. Bryant, who is now 27 years old, listed at roughly the same, as well...
To move in to the team's top 5, according to evaluators, experts, etc., Vientos needed to avoid noticeable, swing-and-miss slumps; keep from dropping elbows, but also get more lift; improve his range in the field; and be more aggressive at the plate, even if it means an increase in strike outs.
In the last year, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen traded away nearly all of his top prospects from the previous season. As a result, prospects Ronny Mauricio, Brett Baty, Matthew Allan and Francisco Alvarez, all of whom are not yet 20 years old, filled in to the top slots.
Vientos currently checks in as the organization's sixth-best prospect, according to MLB.com.
Team insiders tell me Vientos will likely begin 2020 with Single-A St. Lucie with the goal of getting to Double-A before the end of the season. At that point, I expect he will be the considered the system's best or second-best prospect and someone often being asked about in trade.
From what I can gather, the Mets have Vientos on a similar track to the one blazed by Amed Rosario, who played in 452 minor-league games before being promoted to the big leagues at 21 years old.
Vientos will likely have 450 games in his rear-view, minor-league mirror at some point in 2021, at which time he'll also be 21 years old and ready to hit Queens and hopefully live up to being a 'masher.'
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!