The Major League Baseball Draft is the starting point for young men that have grown up with the dreams and ambitions to one day play for a professional team. Throughout their young lives, these players have put in countless hours on and off the field, in hopes to hear their name called at the podium of MLB Network.
South Florida infielder Mark Vientos was one such player who yearned for the chance to play for his favorite team, the New York Mets. It’s rare when a player’s favorite team selects them in the Draft, however, when it happens, it makes the event that much more enjoyable.
Vientos was watching at home with his friends and family by his side, nervously waiting to see if his name would be called in the early rounds. He had heard the rumors that he would most likely be selected in the first two rounds, but when pick number 59 approached, with his favorite team about to select, the nerves subsided into pure joy when he heard his name called.
Vientos, 17, was the youngest player taken on the first day, and has high upside. A solid build of 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, he drew comparisons to another former Floridian taken in the 2010 MLB Draft, third baseman Manny Machado.
An enticing prospect, Vientos’ bat has paved the way for high praise. While he played mostly shortstop for American Heritage, he may transition to third base where scouts feel he’ll be better suited for his size and athleticism.
I had the privilege of speaking with Vientos over the weekend, where we discussed the draft, his favorite players growing up, and what he brings to the table.
MMO: I thought I read somewhere that you were a Mets fan growing up, is that true?
Mark: Yeah, my dad was born in the Dominican Republic and he moved to New York, and he was a Mets fan. I just grew up a Mets fan with him.
MMO: Who were some of your favorite players growing up?
MMO: What was the Draft like for you? Who were you with, what were some of the emotions you were having while waiting to hear your name called?
Mark: On Draft night I was at my house with my family and a couple of friends. I was anxious the whole day; that was probably the longest day ever. Just looking forward to the Draft and watching the Draft was pretty long, and it was nerve-wracking.
I’m just glad that I got the opportunity to play for my favorite team and just work hard and get to the big leagues as fast as possible, that’s my goal right now. And be a big impact into the Mets organization.
MMO: Did you have any idea prior to the Draft that the Mets had interest in selecting you?
Mark: Yeah I had a pre-Draft workout with the Mets a week before the Draft. They’ve been scouting my game and shown interest towards me. But they showed interest before the Draft and I kind of had an idea that they were one of the teams that had me in mind to select.
MMO: You had a verbal agreement with the University of Miami to play there after high school; does getting drafted by the Mets alter those plans now?
Mark: Yeah absolutely, I actually go up to New York this week to do a physical and to sign the contract. I’m leaning towards signing professionally most likely.
MMO: Who got you into baseball when you were younger? Was it your father?
Mark: My dad was actually a basketball and football player. My brother actually was the one that started playing baseball with me, and my dad said, “I’m a baseball player.” He was going to teach me to play football and basketball but he saw me playing baseball and he’s like, we’ve got to put this kid in baseball, so I just started playing. I’ve been playing since I was three-years-old.
MMO: Can you give me a quick scouting report on yourself, what are some of your strengths?
Mark: I’d say I’m projectable because I’m a young player. I have a lot of weight to fill in and I’m a good defender. I’m an above-average hitter with a plus arm. I feel like I can be an All Star in the future.
MMO: And conversely, what are some things you’d still like to work on?
Mark: I’d say my quickness right now is what I’m focusing on. I’m working on my quickness and lateral movements just to get quicker. And as I mature and gain more weight, those are basically the two things that I’m trying to work on. Get a little stronger and quicker.
MMO: You played primarily shortstop in high school. There’s been talk that the Mets could move you to third base. Do you feel like you’d be able to handle the transition to the hot corner, and do you have a preference of where you’d like to play?
Mark: Yeah, I definitely could handle the transition to third base because I played third base for my travel team. When I was a freshman in high school I started varsity at third base because there was a senior shortstop. But I’ve heard that I’m going to start off at shortstop and see how that goes for me. If they move me to third base then that’s the best position for me. For right now I’m trying best as possible to stay at shortstop as long as I can.
MMO: Another player that made that transition from short to third was Manny Machado, another Floridian. He’s a comp that I’ve heard for you, how does that feel getting compared to a star like that at a young age?
Mark: Yeah definitely, especially since he’s my favorite player as of right now. He’s a guy I look up to and try to model my game after. And a guy from South Florida too!
I just heard about him when I was little and it’s great to see him do big things in the major leagues and that’s just a player that I admire and I try to model my game after.
MMO: Being one of the youngest players selected in the Draft this year, does that give you more confidence in your game knowing you were taken in the second round with guys older than yourself?
Mark: Yeah definitely. I feel that when I get older and mature I’ll be better than I am right now because I’m a young seventeen and a lot of the kids that got drafted are 18, 19, 20, 21. That’s a big difference and I just feel like as the years go on I get better and better. I feel like when I’m that age I’ll be a totally different player and more mature and prepared for the big leagues.
MMO: Have you ever been to New York before?
Mark: The last time I’ve been to New York was probably when I was six or seven. So I don’t totally remember New York but I went to Shea Stadium; I’ve never been to Citi Field. So this is going to be an awesome experience looking at Citi Field, a beautiful stadium. I’m just looking forward to starting professionally and playing for the New York Mets.
MMO: Appreciate the time, Mark. Best of luck to you and congratulations.
Mark: Thank you, thank you.
Follow Mark on Twitter, @MarkVientos_5