Mets' Christian Scott's stuff is great, but his intangibles may be even better

The stuff speaks for itself. If you watched Christian Scott’s highly-anticipated major league debut on Saturday, you know he’s the real deal, with an extraordinary fastball and nasty breaking stuff to keep hitters off balance.

Yet it’s the intangibles that may be most impressive about him, and reason to believe Scott can have a huge immediate impact for the Mets.

That was his first test, to be sure. For when he gave up hits to the first three Tampa Bay Rays hitters he faced on the road in a national-TV game, it was hard not to think maybe he wasn’t as poised as Mets people have been saying for weeks and months.

Sure enough, however, Scott didn’t so much as flinch, escaping the inning with a strikeout and a double-play ground out, and from there he pretty much dominated the Rays over 6.2 innings, allowing no more runs while making it look almost Jacob deGrom-like easy at times.

It was a dazzling debut, and still I was as impressed with his postgame demeanor as his performance. Simply put, he looked and sounded like he’d been there for years, not one day.

When he told reporters he hadn’t been even a little nervous, for example, it wasn’t with fake bravado so much as a this-is-who-I-am earnestness.

“A lot of people told me I’d have trouble sleeping,” he said with a smile, “but I slept like a baby.”

The reason? He was convinced he could pitch at the big-league level.

“I know my stuff plays here,” he said.

That could come off as cockiness, to be sure, but it didn’t sound that way when he was being interviewed. He said it so matter-of-factly that it was hard not to believe him.

And then Tomas Nido, who had been catching Scott earlier this season in Triple-A, told reporters, yep, that’s who he is, all right.

“When we were talking before the game, you never would have thought it was his first day here,” Nido said.

When asked to elaborate, Nido indicated Scott was well-prepared, having studied the scouting report on the Rays’ hitters.

“He was in control of the meeting we had,” said Nido. “He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was just a pro. He belongs.”

He’s not going anywhere, that’s for sure. Manager Carlos Mendoza made it clear Scott is staying in the starting rotation, meaning that unless the Mets go to a six-man rotation, Adrian Houser is the odd man out, on call in the bullpen.

In that sense Scott represents a major upgrade and reason for optimism, with the potential for dominant starting pitching, since Luis Severino has re-discovered his old form and Kodai Senga is making progress on a return from his shoulder injury.

Not that all is well with these Mets, however.

Indeed, the only downer on Saturday is that Scott’s outstanding start didn’t lead to a win, as the bats were silent again in a 3-1 loss to the Rays.

They’ve lost nine of their last 13 games, and the offense has been the primary culprit. Francisco Lindor has been better lately but he’s still hitting only .202, while Pete Alonso is in a 1-for-26 slide, his average down to .214.

The inconsistent nature of their stars, as well as the offense as a whole, is a major concern, as the Mets have fallen under .500 for the first time since they were 7-8.

The Mets have to hope J.D. Martinez is still rounding into form after his late start to the season, that Jeff McNeil isn’t as lost as he looks at the plate, and that Francisco Alvarez will provide some thump when he gets back from injury.

All that remains to be seen but none of it should have kept Mets fans from dreaming on Scott Saturday night. For he offers hope they have a home-grown ace in the making, a vital piece to build a championship team around in the next few years.

May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Christian Scott (45) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Tropicana Field.
May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Christian Scott (45) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Tropicana Field. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

It would be quite a testament to the Mets’ player development program, which has undergone key personnel changes the last couple of years. After all, Scott was a fifth-round draft choice out of the U. of Florida, a reliever who relied primarily on two pitches, a sinking fastball and a slider.

Now he’s a four-seam monster, his fastball playing above its velocity in part because the Mets lowered his arm slot to create more ride and deception.

They also helped him develop a sweeper, with a big horizontal break, to go with a more vertical-breaking slider, and a split changeup that wasn’t much of a factor on Saturday.

As such, one scout from another organization told me he gave the Mets plenty of credit for Scott’s ascension to an elite prospect.

“Nobody saw this coming when he was at Florida” the scout said. “He had command but it’s rare to see a kid make as big a leap, stuff-wise, as he has. His ceiling is very high now and the Mets have done a great job of developing him.”

In short, everything about Scott offers reason to believe the Mets have something special in the making.

And that’s including the gushing praise from Adam Wainwright, the former All-Star pitcher who was working Saturday’s game on FOX. The name Wainwright will always be a sore spot for Mets’ fans, of course, going back to the infamous Carlos Beltran strikeout, but he was always a thinking-man’s pitcher who knows his stuff.

So for him to go ga-ga over Scott offered another level of validation.

“The guy’s stuff is electric,” Wainwright said at one point. “E-lectric. That 96 [mph on the radar gun] looks like 106 to me.”

Later, he indicated it’s only a matter of time before Scott becomes a true No. 1.

“When he learns to pitch effectively inside [to right handers],” Wainwright said, “with that heater and that split too, to go with the sweeper, oh my goodness, it’s going to be ridiculous.”

Throw in Scott’s intangibles and ridiculous could come fast and furiously.