BOSTON – First, it was an April snowstorm that pushed Mike Vasil’s first start back. Then, it was a transportation issue with the visiting team that pushed it back again.
When the dust finally settled, and the much-celebrated potential first-round pick finally took the ball on the hill, with nearly 70 Major League Baseball scouts charting his every move, the Boston College High (Mass.) righthander said it was the most adrenaline he’d had for a start in two years.
And boy, did the hard-throwing senior deliver. Amidst frigid temperatures, Vasil, a USA TODAY Preseason ALL-USA selection, carried a perfect game into the final out of BC High’s battle with league rival St. John’s Prep (Danvers, Mass.), the bid ending when Prep’s Tyler McGregor turned on a fastball up-and-in for a stand-up double down the right-field line. Vasil finished the day striking out 13 with no walks and allowing just the one hit in a 1-0 victory Wednesday.
“He located really really well. He had some fun mixing in his off-speed stuff – maybe too much fun, I think,” said BC High coach Norm Walsh, with a laugh. “But he wanted to call his own game, so I said, ‘OK, we’ll see how it is’.
“I had conversations between innings about certain hitters, but other than that he was on his own. I said to him at one point, ‘A couple of those, I wouldn’t have thrown those’, but he had a perfect game going, so who am I to argue with that?”
Baseball players from the Boston area rarely project as first-round picks out of high school. Should the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Vasil get taken within the first 30 picks in this June’s MLB draft, as many expect, he’d be just the third Bay State prep to do so in the last 15 years.
So naturally, by law of averages, those weighty expectations have led to this kind of setting at Vasil’s starts:
Vasil, a University of Virginia commit, couldn’t wait to show off his stuff to the droves of scouts, which included nearly a dozen clubs’ scouting directors.
Working primarily off of a fastball that clocked around 94-95 mph, and mixing in a changeup and a curveball with a little more dramatic movement than usual, he delivered.
Twice he retired the side 1-2-3 on strikeouts in the first three innings. That included an impressive sequence in the first where, after going ahead 2-0 in the count, he fell behind to a full count, only to get the Prep batter to chase at a heater up out of the zone:
With his fastball firmly established in the early going, he was able to induce whiffs in a variety of ways:
The pressure didn’t seem to faze Vasil. In fact, seeing all the scouts in attendance brought back memories of his first tilt in front of a large throng of radar guns, last summer at the Tournament of Stars at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
“Once I got out there, I realized, you don’t look above the catcher’s mitt. They’re doing what they’re doing over there, and I’m doing what I’m doing out on the mound,” he said. “It felt good again to get out there. I feel like having those guys behind the backstop bumped my game up a little bit more, because I’m that much more competitive.”
The effort left a lasting impression on at least a few folks in attendance.
“The kid checks off a lot of boxes,” said one American League scout. “Strong, athletic, showed his fastball and the velocity was really good to see. He flashed a good curveball, flashed a good changeup, and he’s super competitive. And you had 10 scouting directors there, so you know how good he is.
“His offspeed is there, but he’s just gotta get more consistent with it. If he does that, we’re talking about a potential 3, 4, 5 starter [in the majors].”
In praising Vasil, St. John’s Prep coach Dan Letarte invoked two of the Bay State’s most legendary arms – Salem’s Jeff Juden, who embarked on a decade-long MLB career after getting picked 12th overall in 1989; and Peabody’s Jeff Allison, the 2003 Baseball America National Player of the Year who went 16th overall before some well-documented off-field issues derailed his career.
But then Letarte went even further. He could find no equal.
“Jeff [Juden] is a great pitcher, but Mike’s the best I’ve ever seen – and this goes back 35 years, at least,” Letarte said. “He’s the best I’ve seen in Massachusetts, period. And he’s gotten better every year.”
And his own coach? He could find no equal in his own long, illustrious career, which includes three MIAA state championships, 500-plus wins, and a forthcoming induction into the National Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“We’ve had some dominant performances before, but he is an MLB potential pitcher. I’ve never had a guy like that,” Walsh said. “We might have had one guy before who I thought had that [potential], but he was a different style. No, Mike is just something different.”
Vasil is next scheduled to pitch Thursday, April 19, against Wachusett Regional, in Holden, Mass.