The Mets called up Mark Vientos, a power-hitting infielder, in hopes of sparking their flagging offense.
Vientos, 23, was hitting .333 with 13 home runs, 37 runs batted in and a 1.104 on-base plus slugging percentage in 38 games for Class AAA Syracuse this season — he had gone 2 for 5 with a home run in Tuesday night’s loss.
He started at third base for the Mets in Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field, giving Brett Baty a day off. He batted eighth, one spot ahead of catcher Francisco Álvarez.
Baty, Álvarez and Vientos are part of a new generation of Mets players that the team hopes can eventually take over for higher-priced free agents. And their potential was on display in Wednesday’s game, as Vientos hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning and Álvarez hit a game-tying three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets then won, 8-7, on walk-off three-run homer from Pete Alonso in the 10th.
Why It Matters
Expectations were sky high for the Mets after last year’s 101-win season and an off-season spending spree in which Steven A. Cohen, the team’s billionaire owner, allowed for the payroll to surge to nearly $350 million, which will balloon even more down the road thanks to Major League Baseball’s multi-tier luxury tax system.
Thus far almost nothing had gone right. The Mets entered Wednesday’s game with a record of 20-23 — six and a half games behind Atlanta in the National League East. They were also a game and a half behind the Miami Marlins for the N.L.’s third wild-card spot.
The Mets’ biggest problem has been pitching, with their starters combining for a 5.46 E.R.A. entering Wednesday’s game. But offense also has been an issue. The team ranked 19th in O.P.S. — a measurement that reflects both the team’s ability to get on base (on-base percentage) and to hit for power (slugging percentage) — 21st in runs and is tied for 20th in home runs.
Vientos was only 17 in 2017 when the Mets made him a second-round pick out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. He had a 16-game call-up to the majors last season, and disappointed by going 6 for 36 with one home run and 12 strikeouts. But he has absolutely crushed the ball in the high minors. In 150 games at Class AAA over parts of the last three seasons, he has hit .294 with 40 home runs and a .566 slugging percentage.
A below-average runner, he has not displayed a great deal of promise defensively, which limits his overall value, and his best position will most likely be first base, which the Mets hope will be occupied by Alonso for years to come.
Vientos, however, represents a significant offensive upgrade from the Mets’ most frequently used player off the bench, Tommy Pham, who is hitting .200 in 83 plate appearances. If Vientos can find regular playing time, in the infield, the outfield or at designated hitter, the Mets would be relying on three minimum-salary rookies despite having the highest payroll in M.L.B. history.
Neither Baty, who was called up in a similar fashion to Vientos last season only to sustain a season-ending injury, nor Álvarez has been particularly impressive with their bats, but both have held their own defensively at difficult positions, which has helped keep them in the lineup. Vientos will need to justify his roster spot with his bat.
On Wednesday he did just that.