Leading up to last year's Draft, Mark Vientos displayed plenty of potential with his hitting prowess. On Friday, he lived up to that potential with a breakout night.
The Mets' No. 10 prospect put together his first professional two-homer game while driving in a career-best seven runs and powering Rookie-level Kingsport to an 8-0 win over Burlington at Burlington Athletic Stadium. He also singled for his second three-hit performance of the year.
Gameday box score
Though Vientos said he went deep twice in an extended spring training game this year, this effort felt more meaningful because it came in a game that counted. The 16-point uptick in his batting average didn't hurt, either.
"I just feel good [seeing the ball] well and just bringing runs in," Vientos said. "That's basically what I was trying to do and do anything I could to win the game for the team. ... I just put a good swing on it -- that's pretty much what I try to do. It's just always valuing your at-bat and putting a good swing on it. The ball goes on its own, if you hit it good it's going to go."
Vientos began his second professional season in extended spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida, before heading to the Appalachian League for his first game on June 19. Since coming to Kingsport, the Florida native has worked with hitting coach Delwyn Young, who spent five seasons in the big leagues. Picking up tips from the former pro has been a beneficial part of the development process, Vientos said.
"Every day, he's talking to me and teaching me the little things, the important things about baseball," Vientos said. "He's played in the Major Leagues and has knowledge and he's taught me a lot."
The 18-year-old infielder, who was 3-for-8 over his previous two games, grounded out to third base in the second inning but started to do some damage two frames later. With Shervyen Newton on first, Vientos smoked an 0-2 hanging curveball from Malcolm Van Buren over the left-center field wall.
After grounding into a fielder's choice in the sixth, he stepped in with the bases loaded in the seventh and ripped a 2-2 delivery from reliever Emmanuel Estevez up the middle for a two-run single.
"With that at-bat, I saw that [Estevez] was constantly throwing me fastballs and he threw me a breaking ball," Vientos said. "He looked like he wasn't confident with the breaking ball, so I was just sitting fastball and I knew he was going to bring the fastball. I just put a good swing on it and it got through. I was just trying to bring more runs in, that's it."
Yoel Romero led off the ninth with a single and third-ranked Mets prospect Jarred Kelenic walked two batters later. Vientos worked the count to 3-1 and was sitting on the fastball. He pulled Estevez's fifth pitch over the left field fence for another long ball. It marked the first time he's driven in more than five runs in a game.
Vientos, who also blasted a three-run dinger on Tuesday, has a new career high of six homers -- which is also tops on Kingsport. With the three hits Friday, he bumped his average to .259 and OPS to .796. The 2017 second-round pick out of American Heritage School in Florida batted .262/.318/.398 with four homers in 51 games last year -- 47 in the Gulf Coast League and four in the Appalachian League.
He spent most of his time at shortstop last season, but Vientos has played all 26 games at third base this summer. Transitioning to the corner has posed challenges, but Vientos said he's getting more comfortable there as the year progresses.
"I'm really focused on my defense right now," he said. "I'm trying to get better because I'm at a new position at third base. It's different than shortstop, but I'm getting comfortable every day as I've been playing."
Willy Taveras (2-0) allowed three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings to earn the win.