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'Gifted defenders, gifted hitters, a lot of pitching depth' have K-Mets' Ratliff eager for season

KEVIN MAYS, [email protected] • Jun 17, 2018 at 1:21 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Mets are in town and they are looking to hit the ground running.

Many of the newly minted K-Mets have been in extended spring training in Florida for the past couple of months.

On Tuesday, the Mets open their season in the Appalachian League with a three-game home series against the Princeton Rays.

With talk of the Mets potentially having some of the best talent they’ve had in years, the season opener could not come soon enough for Kingsport manager Sean Ratliff.

“I’m really excited about starting the year and getting the year going,” Ratliff said. “I think it’s a really talented ballclub. We’re young. We’ve got a lot of youth here. We’ve got a lot of ability. We’ve got gifted defenders, gifted hitters, a lot of pitching depth. I have pretty high hopes and pretty high expectations for these guys.

“They do what they’re supposed to do and they work hard and they learn. They focus every day. I think this is going to be a really competitive ballclub.”

Some of the high hopes rest on third baseman Mark Vientos, a second-round pick in last year’s draft.

Vientos spent most of his time last year in the Gulf Coast League before moving up to the Appalachian League in late August.

He finished 2017 with .262 batting average, four home runs and 26 RBIs.

The 18-year-old graduated from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., in 2017.

Like Ratliff, Vientos has high hopes for Kingsport in the upcoming season.

Listed as one the top minor league prospects in the New York Mets organization, Vientos said one of his immediate goals is to win an Appy League championship.

“I’m just excited to start the season. We’ve got a great group of guys and I just want to win some games and see how far we can go into the season and get into the playoffs and try to win a title,” he said.

Andrew Mitchell has not had a lot of time to work with his new teammates. The left-handed pitcher, a 14th-round pick by the Mets, arrived in Kingsport on Friday when he met a lot of his fellow K-Mets.

Mitchell missed extended spring training because he was still working on the mound for Auburn, helping the Tigers advance to NCAA super regional play.

Still, Mitchell is ready to get started on the season.

“Personal bias, I think the SEC is the best conference in the nation and to go through that lineup every week is pretty tough. So I think it’s definitely given me a chance to figure out what works and doesn’t work against good hitters and learn how to make adjustments,” Mitchell said.

Shervyen Newton is in first year playing in the United States, but the Netherlands native played two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. Last year he played in 66 games with a .311 batting average, a home run and 31 RBIs.

Newton, who speaks four languages fluently, hopes his team can do some talking with their play on the field this season.

“Our chances are really high. We’ve got a good team this year. A really good team,” he said.

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