The Mets, already spiraling, are now set to be without their most productive hitter for at least a significant chunk of June. They’re going to have no choice but to figure out a way to forge ahead without him.
That doesn’t mean finding another player to bash homers at Alonso’s rate -- a rather absurd 22 in 62 games before his IL stint. But it does mean receiving more from Mark Vientos and Mark Canha, the two players likely to receive the bulk of first-base reps in Alonso’s absence.
Vientos started at third base Thursday, but went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. After weeks of halting playing time since his Major League callup, Vientos now has an opportunity to prove he belongs in the Majors long-term.
“He's played some first base,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It's not something he's not familiar with. Just trying to get him out there. He’s gonna play today and tomorrow, obviously, and, hopefully, he can kind of get going and give us a little help offensively.”
According to Showalter, Canha is likely the Mets’ best defensive first baseman after Alonso. But (two strong games last week against the Phillies notwithstanding) Canha has struggled at the plate all season, with a .712 OPS in 54 games. Mets officials have also been wary of using Canha every day since he signed with the team before last season.
That should result in plenty of playing time for Vientos, who had 47 hits, 13 homers and 37 RBIs and slashed .333/.416/.688 earlier this year at Triple-A Syracuse. A natural third baseman, Vientos started at first for Syracuse 43 times and has played the position sparingly in the Majors. Thursday was his first start there.
More than defensive aptitude, however, the Mets need offensive pop. In limited Major League action, Vientos is 6-for-37 (.162) with one home run, four RBIs and one walk with 12 strikeouts, taking some of the shine off the excitement surrounding his callup. Against righties, where he had success in the Minors, his slash line is .167/.200/.292, whereas .154/.143/.154 against lefties.
Vientos is struggling at the plate, but the data suggests he is bound to bounce back. His expected batting average is .262, his expected slugging percentage is .491 and his actual slugging percentage is .243. The drastic jump for his slugging comes from his ability to hit homers, but it hasn’t translated so far this year.
This is yet another opportunity for Vientos to carve a role in the Mets’ lineup whether or not Alonso is there -- though the team needs his hitting prowess. The Connecticut native just has to seize the opportunity.