SEATTLE — The Mets’ Mike Vasil grew up in suburban Boston as a huge Tom Brady fan. And before the seven-time Super Bowl winner established himself as the NFL’s greatest quarterback, he was just a sixth-round draft pick, No. 199 overall.
Vasil was going for that same energy in Saturday’s Futures Game at T-Mobile Park, having his draft status on the back of his Mets-themed cleats, paired with Home Run Apple logos. For the left cleat, there was an “8th” on the top hat below the apple. For the right, a “232nd.”
The 2021 eighth-round pick out of Virginia may be the Mets’ top pitching prospect, but surrounded Saturday by MLB’s highest-profile young stars, he had an early Brady post-Michigan vibe.
“Yeah, I can’t deny there’s a little bit of that in there,” said Vasil, who walked one and struck out one in facing two batters Saturday. “Tom Brady is one of my heroes. Even before I experienced some of the things I have, doubts or stuff like that. He’s just always been my guy that I look to. This is who I want to be in terms of a champion, a winner, a competitor. You always like to draw comparisons between you and the GOAT of all GOATS, but I read the stuff that he said before, when things aren’t going your way, and use that as motivation for sure.”
Vasil, 23, is experiencing some of that adversity after his recent promotion to Triple-A Syracuse, where adjusting to higher-caliber hitters, the MLB baseball and the smaller zone of the automated ball-strike system has resulted in an 8.53 ERA in his first four starts there (17 hits, 10 walks in 12 2⁄3 innings). Vasil allowed only eight walks in 51 innings (10 starts) and had a 10.1 K/9 ratio for Double-A Binghamton, but he knows this is part of the journey.
“I really trust the organization in what we’re doing, even just tweaking pitches,” Vasil said. “The balls are a little bit different, getting a feel for that, the carry on the fastball. Also, just the pitch sequencing, how to get those guys out. It’s just learning, the process, and I trust the process that got me there.”
The ABS system, also known as the robo-ump, requires some getting used to. Yankees prospect Clayton Beeter — also recently promoted to Triple-A and at the Futures Game — can attest to that. “It’s definitely tougher,” Beeter said. “But it probably helped me attack the zone better, honestly.”
Vasil believes the top of the strike zone is “gone,” which has forced him to alter his approach to some degree. But now that he’s getting familiar with it, he views it as just another hurdle to clear.
“I’m just an eighth-round pick here at the Futures Game, moving my way through the system,” Vasil said. “I am who I am. I’m just working hard to not necessarily prove it to others but prove it to myself that I know how good I can be and ultimately try to get to Citi Field and pitch in the big leagues.”