This starter may be the buzziest prospect in Mets' system

April 23rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Each year, a new high-profile prospect emerges to tantalize fans. David Wright was once that guy, performing so splendidly in the Minors that the Mets had little choice but to call him up in the middle of a season. Matt Harvey was once that guy, too. More recently, Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos have all taken their turn.

This season, the prospect turning heads is a pitcher many casual Mets fans had never heard of until late last summer or even this spring. How quickly things have changed for Christian Scott, now one of the buzziest players in Minor League Baseball.

“He’s only had three starts here,” Triple-A Syracuse manager Dick Scott said, “and he’s already got everyone’s attention.”

Christian Scott, the Mets' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has done this mostly by missing bats at an elite level. Among Triple-A starting pitchers with at least 10 innings, Scott ranks second in strikeout rate (16.33%) behind only Paul Skenes (19.18%), the top overall selection in last year’s Draft and MLB Pipeline's No. 3 overall prospect. Among 205 qualified Minor League pitchers, Scott is 19th in swinging-strike rate (35.6%).

It’s the profile of a frontline starting-pitching prospect, which is what Scott has rightfully become. But he didn’t always profile that way. The Mets’ fifth-round Draft pick in 2021, Scott was a college reliever who didn’t even strike out one batter per inning (51 K's in 54 frames) during his final season at the University of Florida. The Mets made him a starter during his first full year in the pros, and he hasn’t looked back since. Recently, Scott developed a sweeper to complement his hard slider, upper-90s four-seam fastball and split-changeup.

Scott is quite simply a different, more complete pitcher than he was in college, when he relied mostly on velocity as a prototypical sinker/slider type.

“If he could add those [other] pitches, then he turns into a starter and potentially a frontline starter,” Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “If he doesn’t, then he’s still a good Major League pitcher. That’s a credit to him and his work ethic and all the guys who have worked with him. His fastball’s special, and it’s a Major League fastball. So if he can generally command the other pitches and keep them off balance just enough, he’ll be in a good place.”

Despite Scott’s strong early results, the Mets aren’t ready to call him up to the Majors yet, for multiple reasons.

One is the fact that he isn’t a finished product; if there’s a knock on Scott, it’s that he’s been homer-prone this season, allowing five in three starts -- something his Triple-A manager attributes to the right-hander’s fly-ball tendencies and a bit of bad luck. A rival scout who recently saw Scott said that while his control is excellent, his in-zone command -- Scott’s ability to place pitches exactly where he wants within the strike zone -- could still use refinement.

Then there is the matter of workload. As a reliever at Florida, Scott never threw more than 54 innings in a college season. His career high as a professional was 87 2/3 last year. The Mets don’t have a hard ceiling for Scott this season, but they plan on monitoring him closely -- something more easily done in the Minor Leagues than the Majors.

But if Scott keeps striking batters out at this rate, he’ll surely be in New York before long. Even manager Carlos Mendoza, when asked about Scott earlier this month, admitted: “We are paying attention.”

“Guys like him are like thoroughbreds,” Dick Scott said. “They want the ball. They want to go. They want to take it. You’ve got to like that. That’s something that we haven’t had probably since we had that group come through like Harvey and deGrom, Wheeler, Syndergaard. … I think he’s going to be one of those guys that has a really good, complete package as a pitcher.”

Elsewhere on the farm …

Double-A Binghamton: Keep an eye on Rhylan Thomas, who has already advanced from an 11th-round Draft pick in 2022 to the Mets’ 30th-ranked prospect. Thomas is off to as strong a start as any hitter in the system, batting .340/.404/.447 with five doubles in 12 games.

High-A Brooklyn: Outside of Scott, the hottest pitching prospect in the system might be fellow Florida product Brandon Sproat (No. 13). Capable of throwing in the low triple digits, Sproat has struck out 12 batters over the first 9 2/3 innings of his professional career. Last year’s second-round pick will need to clean up his control (eight walks) if he wants to advance quickly through the system, but Sproat’s swing-and-miss ability is already apparent.

Single-A St. Lucie: Nick Morabito (No. 26) profiles as a younger version of Thomas -- a smallish center field type with lots of speed. While Morabito’s bat-to-ball skills aren’t quite as keen as those of Thomas, he does feature a bit more power, as evidenced by his home run and two triples in 14 games for St. Lucie.