Mets prospects Brett Baty, Mark Vientos can learn from Dominic Smith, Pete Alonso
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets have these two young players who seem as if they can be pretty good. And they are getting close to the majors. But they play the same position. Only one can be the organization’s future at that spot.
The circumstances surrounding prospects Brett Baty and Mark Vientos, a pair of 22-year-old third basemen, are reminiscent of those faced by Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith a few years ago. The experiences of the original tandem offer lessons for the new: It can work out just fine, and you even can become friends if you want.
What once looked like an untenable situation that might yield a trade instead is heading into its fourth season with both existing as key Mets, Alonso entrenched as the first baseman and Smith set to get time at DH, first base and leftfield.
“The way it shaped up for Dom and I is really, really cool,” said Alonso, who counted Smith among the teammates who attended his wedding in the offseason. “Dom and I have a very good relationship. The kid is an unbelievable person. He works extremely hard. I consider him a dear friend. I’m really fortunate that it worked out like that for him and I.”
That last sentiment is easy for Alonso to say since he won out at their shared natural position, despite Smith being regarded as a better defender.
So perhaps Smith’s advice hits a little different: Don’t stress and don’t be afraid to learn another spot on the field.
“There’s no sense in worrying about that,” Smith said, explaining that decisions about the Mets futures of Baty and Vientos will be made well over their heads. “Whatever situation you get put in, just be ready for that. Enjoy and embrace every situation that comes with it. Versatility is huge in the game of baseball now. That’s what a ton of guys get paid off of. It’s OK to be versatile. It’s OK to display your different skills. It could be a faster way to the big leagues.”
Smith started to dabble with leftfield in 2018, when he and Alonso were in Triple-A. That development was “tough,” he admitted, from an identity perspective (as someone who had reach the majors as a first baseman) and from a physical perspective (since he was “heavier”), but he learned to appreciate it.
Alonso played first base late in the season for that Las Vegas team, their first time on the same roster.
“Two classy guys,” said Tony DeFrancesco, their manager that summer. “Both very personable, outgoing, great personalities. I didn’t see any problem with them. They pushed each other to even be where they’re at today. They complemented each other.”
During spring training 2019, they participated in what ostensibly was a competition for the first-base job, but Alonso’s performance left little question. Smith wedged his way into the Mets’ plans anyway, becoming a significantly above-average hitter in 2019-20 (before a partially torn labrum ruined his 2021).
“Whatever happens, obviously you have to play and play well,” Smith said. “I see a lot of guys worrying about their own things and they get caught up in that and their performance kind of slips — and when it is their time to play, they aren’t ready for that opportunity. That’s something that I would hate to see. If you’re focused on your task every day and taking that seriously, when it does come you’ll be ready to seize your opportunity.”
The Mets plan to have Baty and Vientos play the outfield once per week. Vientos also has played some first base.
“These super-utility roles and the guys who can play multiple positions are very valuable,” said DeFrancesco, who is something of a utility guy himself as a senior adviser for player development and scouting for the Mets.
What it comes down to is performing — and, really, hitting. The Mets will make space for impactful hitters.
“When you perform, good things happen,” Alonso said. “If they both perform, they will be rewarded for it.”
And Smith: “They take their craft seriously. I’ve seen them work. They work extremely hard. They’re going to be good players. I’m not worried about them on the mental side of the game, and they seem to get along real well. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with them.”