Mets pitching prospects, from left, Mike Vasil, Christian Scott and...

Mets pitching prospects, from left, Mike Vasil, Christian Scott and Dominic Hamel Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — For the weekend, the Mets’ future is now.

Highlighting their spring training slate will be the Grapefruit League debuts of their top pitching prospects in camp, a trio of righthanders who may well be major-league options in 2024.

Christian Scott and Mike Vasil are scheduled to face the Marlins on Saturday and Dominic Hamel is set to go against the Astros on Sunday.

And here’s the fun piece: They will be about as interested in each others’ performances as their own.

“It’s time,” Scott said, “to get the kids going.”

Scott, Vasil and Hamel have climbed the minor-league ladder together, college arms in the Mets’ draft class of 2021 who quickly found that “these are the kinds of guys I’ll be chilling with,” as Hamel put it.

Their tight-knit, fun-loving bond has been perhaps the most striking and obvious new dynamic in the Mets’ clubhouse during spring training.

From shooting on the miniature basketball hoop hung on the wall to breaking down their bullpen sessions by their bunched-up lockers, they are happy to spend lots of time around each other, even when it includes doing nothing in particular.

They’ve played and lived together periodically during their rise through the farm system. Now they’re eyeing the same in the majors.

“When you’re able to have a good core group move up all the way together, that helps out a team so much,” Hamel said. “It’s not just a bunch of random people. ‘Oh, I got scouted to come play here.’ No, these are some of my boys I’m playing with.” 

Free Chipotle to winner

Plopped into this coastal town with not a whole lot to do, Hamel, Vasil and Scott forged their bond in the heat of a Florida summer in 2021, just-out-of-college kids in their early 20s and excited about their nascent professional careers.

The Mets didn’t sign their first-rounder that year, Kumar Rocker, because of concerns about the health of his arm. That left the rest of them joking about being “a ‘no-name’ class,” Vasil said. They didn’t have their headliner.

“Oh, yeah, we’re nobodies now,” Vasil said. “But we loved it. It was a joke. We fed off of each other from that.”

Among the memories from that summer: Carter Capps, the former major-leaguer who at the time was a minor-league pitching instructor for the Mets, made a game out of the defensive drills the pitchers ran. He would line them up across the infield and then fire ground balls at them.

If you fielded the ball or at least knocked it down, you stayed in. If it got by you, you were out.

“He could hit the [expletive] out of the ball with a fungo bat,” Hamel said.

Vasil said: “We would just be scared for our lives. Screaming at each other. It was awesome. We still talk about it. And it’s so funny. Remember when I got smoked in the shin that one day? And I wore a ball to the chin another day? It was awesome.”

Capps upped the ante by offering a $25 Chipotle card to the winner.

Yes, these three had just signed for bonuses totaling more than $1.25 million, but listen. Listen. Chipotle — a staple of the minor-league diet — was on the line. That moves the needle.

“It’s the idea of being able to go to Chipotle and not spend your own money,” Vasil said. “Oh, wow, I don’t have to spend any money. It’s free.”

Navigating the new landscape was difficult for Hamel, who had to do so while grieving the loss of his mother, Lisa Perez. She died less than two weeks before he was drafted.

He had “a low social battery,” he said, but didn’t want to make himself “the main character.” So he put on a happy face most of the time.

“But these guys were a group of guys I was able to be vulnerable with about stuff in my personal life and vice versa,” Hamel explained. “I was in a weird state of melancholy, where I’d be like, ‘Wow, I’m living my dream, I’m in pro ball.’ Then it would hit me again. They’d say, ‘You good today? What’s up?’ Eventually I could tell them.”

Immediately after reaching one milestone, facing batters for the first time, he “broke down crying on the side” of the field, he said.

Scott came over to throw an arm around him.

“He was the only one who gave me a buddy hug,” Hamel said. “That was when we didn’t even know each other like that, but you could see he’s considerate. So I know he’s looking out for me on a deeper level.” 

Pitchers are people, too

By virtue of spending so much time together, including when they don’t have to, Vasil, Hamel and Scott are experts of sorts on each other. They know stuff most other teammates don’t.

For example, Hamel, the best dressed of the three, eats at Five Guys after every start as a reward to himself. Oh, and when he was a kid, he took hip-hop dancing classes — the remnants of which show up some mornings.

His signature move, per Vasil: the coffee-grinder (also known as the helicopter).

“In the morning I’ll hear the speaker going and I’ll walk into his room and he’ll be breakdancing,” Vasil said. “He would act like he was a barista at Starbucks. He’ll be like, ‘What’s your order?’ and start coffee-grinding on the kitchen floor.”

Hamel said in an interview: “Can I get a name for that order? Is that a grande or a venti? Iced?”

Vasil, not particularly good at the Madden video game, has an all-or-nothing strategy: Hail Mary after Hail Mary after Hail Mary. Full send, every time. This typically leads to “21 points and six picks” per game, according to Scott.

“He’s not lying,” Vasil allowed.

Vasil also has a thing about the number four, Hamel said. When he scores in a video game, he’ll repeat a celebratory phrase four times. When he puts on his cross in the morning, he’ll do the sign of the cross four times.

“I think it’s a subconscious thing,” Hamel said. “I think if you ask him if his favorite number is four, he’ll have no idea.”

And then there is Scott, the reserved one.

He tends to develop quiet obsessions — and ends up really good at whatever that is. Then he’ll show up, having not told anybody anything about how he’d been spending his time, and be the best of the bunch at, say, golf or the NHL video game or throwing a changeup.

“If I’m not very good at something, it’s like . . . ,’’ Scott said.

Vasil interjected: “You’re going to do it till you’re good at it.”

In late 2022, for instance, Scott and Vasil were toying with a changeup while in the Arizona Fall League. It was going fine. By spring training the next year, Scott’s version was more than fine.

“He comes back and he’s like, yeah, it’s my split-change now,” Vasil said as Scott chuckled to himself. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, this is it.’ And it’s, like, the nastiest pitch ever. When? How are you getting that? How did you do that? But it’s just the way it is.”

That energy from Scott felt familiar to Vasil.

“He’s extremely simple and has sneaky hobbies,” Vasil said. “It’s similar to the way he pitches. He gets ready and everything, he’s not crazy high-energy, he’s very calm. Then he goes out there and boom, electric. It matches up with who he is as a guy.” 

Up the ladder

Scott, Vasil and Hamel represent the first of what the Mets hope will be consistent waves of prospects resulting from their revamped pitcher development program.

Externally and internally, Scott is the most highly regarded, a back-end top-100 name on some mainstream prospect lists. He was the Mets’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2023.

Vasil, a projected first-round pick in 2018 until he withdrew his name from the draft to go to Virginia, spent much of last season with Triple-A Syracuse. He may well be the first to be deemed majors-ready.

Hamel, the Mets’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2022, went to the Mets in the third round, ahead of Scott (fifth) and Vasil (eighth) in their shared draft.

They’re getting awfully close to fulfilling their individual dream — playing in the majors — together.

“We’re all going for the same thing,” Scott said. “We’re not in the mindset of it’s one or the other. We could all do it — and we know that.”

Vasil said: “We don’t see that it couldn’t be — at some point, hopefully — everyone.”

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months