JUPITER, Fla. — With Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty coming off the bench, Saturday was Mark Vientos’ turn to run with the Mets’ prospect baton and wreck opposing pitching.
“Swaggy V,” as the clubbies have dubbed him, demolished a pair of home runs and became the latest promising young Mets hitter to make noise.
In the first weeks of spring training, the team’s top prospects have performed like top prospects.
“Finally,” Vientos said after his first two dingers of the spring. “I was messing around with Brett and Ronnie the other day. I was like, ‘You guys got some, I gotta get me one.’ I finally got two today.”
Through the Mets’ first nine Grapefruit League games, Mauricio, Baty and Vientos are a combined 18-for-47 (.383) with six home runs.
Vientos, a corner infielder who also is getting his feet wet in the outfield, had gotten off to a slow start before he crushed three of the five hardest-hit balls of the game in a 15-4 win over the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.
Against lefty Jesus Luzardo, the righty-hitting Vientos smacked a 107.7-mph single up the middle in the first inning.
After striking out in the third inning, he homered to dead center in the fourth and fifth innings against a pair of righties, Justin Evans and Dylan Floro. His second, in particular, was a no-doubter, traveling an estimated 469 feet.
For Vientos, who has massive opposite-field power, sending pitches straight back up the middle was an encouraging sign.
“The past two days, I was trying to feel something with my approach. And obviously, [going up the middle is] how the work starts off,” the 23-year-old said. “Previous days, it’s like, ‘All right, this is starting to feel good.’ … So I was just trying to feel something on my swing and today, that was good.”
The Mets’ starting infielders all are set to leave for the World Baseball Classic on Sunday, so there will be more opportunities for prospects such as Vientos to prove themselves, though there are more questions over the slugger’s glove than his bat.
Of the 16 major league games Vientos played as a September call-up last season, just two came at third base.
He struggled at the spot in Triple-A and began shifting to first base, then was promoted and consistently employed as a DH or a pinch-hitter.
Vientos, who has been leaning upon Eduardo Escobar in camp, got the start at third Saturday.
He said he worked this offseason on his agility and first-step quickness, trying to improve defensively.
“My focus [this offseason] is to play every single day in the major leagues,” Vientos said. “Whether it’s first, third, I want to play every single day and help this team as much as I can.”
Baty is also a third baseman, though Vientos’ true competition around camp might be Tommy Pham and Darin Ruf, both righty hitters who have made careers pounding opposing lefties.
Pham also helps in left field, while Ruf, who has been sidelined early with a wrist issue, could be the backup first baseman.
“We all know the hit tool has got the chance to be pretty good,” manager Buck Showalter said of Vientos. “He’s working hard [defensively]. … I think he understands how important being somebody you can trust on both sides of the ball is.”