New York Mets General Manager Billy Eppler has for the most part been a superstar in fans' eyes by his moves this winter and some of the moves he had made last season as well. The only move that has left Mets fans up in arms to this point would be the trade for Darin Ruf at the Trade Deadline last August.
While hindsight is always 20/20, it's safe to say most Mets fans are looking for a Darin Ruf replacement going into the 2023 season as Ruf largely struggled since coming over from the San Francisco Giants. To back that statement up, he had hit .152/.216/.197 in 74 plate appearances last season, and that included zero home runs and 7 RBIs.
While Ruf was brought over due to his ability to mash left-handed pitching, that scenario never played out in Queens, and while the Mets may be looking elsewhere for someone to step in as an upgrade on Ruf, they may not have to look far as they already have him on their current roster.
He goes by the name of Mark Vientos. The Mets' number seven prospect according to MLB.com, Vientos was probably the most talked about Mets prospect outside of Francisco Alvarez last season, and while he was given a chance late in the season with the Mets after absolutely obliterating Triple-A pitching, I don't believe he was given a long enough look to be a possible solution for the Mets bench.
The Mets have a viable internal option for a role on the bench next season in Mark Vientos
In Triple-A last season, Vientos hit .280/.358/.519 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs, and 16 doubles over 101 games. Upon his promotion to the Mets in September he wound up hitting .167/.268/.278 with one home run and 3 RBIs in 41 plate appearances. Vientos throughout his career in the Minor Leagues has been a notoriously slow starter upon a promotion and then suddenly becomes a hitting machine once he adjusts to the respective level of competition.
I don't believe Vientos had a chance to adjust in the short time he was up in the Major Leagues last season, but in 2023 he could be the slugger off the bench that the Mets thought they were getting in Darin Ruf. Last season in Triple-A Vientos had hit .315/.401/.692 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs against southpaws, which is something the Mets needed desperately last season.
Defensively, Vientos can play both first base and third base, with first base being the most important for the Mets if he were to make the roster, as he could spell Pete Alonso on days that the Mets want Alonso in the designated hitter position.
The 23-year-old Vientos will have plenty of opportunities this spring to face Major League pitching with many Mets regulars participating in the World Baseball Classic. In turn, this could provide Vientos an opportunity to get some much-needed at-bats against Major Leaguers, and at this point, I don't believe he has much left to prove in the Minors. Currently, I believe Vientos may be the most MLB-ready prospect the Mets currently have.
With all of this being said if the Mets are realistically looking for options to replace Darin Ruf, they have one player on the roster right now that is deserving of an opportunity this upcoming season in Mark Vientos.