6. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
Height: 6’2”, Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: 6/12/96 (21)
Acquired: 5th round, 2015 Draft (William T. Dwyer High School, Florida)
2017: Columbia (Low-A): 6 G (6 GS), 29.0 IP, 24 H, 10 R, 9 ER (2.79 ERA), 10 BB, 27 K
The Mets took a gamble when they selected Thomas Szapucki with their fifth-round pick during the 2015 Draft. The problem wasn’t that Szapucki was a divisive talent, but rather, that the high school senior was so talented that he seemed a lock to attend baseball powerhouse University of Florida. Szapucki signed with the team in the end, and after reporting to spring training that following year with a much-improved attitude and work ethic, became one of the Mets’ hottest minor league players. The southpaw carved through the Appalachian League with little difficulty and handled the New York-Penn League with equal ease when promoted to the Brooklyn almost a month later, posting a 1.37 ERA in 52.0 combined innings, allowing 26 hits, striking out 86, and walking 20. A lower back injury ended his 2016 season prematurely, and a shoulder impingement delayed the start of his 2017 campaign. On July 6, the southpaw felt tightness in his pitching forearm and was removed from his start after recording just two outs. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list, and wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Szapucki has had trouble staying on the field in his young career, but when he has been able to pitch, he’s been lights out on virtually every mound he’s worked his craft from. His fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s, topping out at 97 MPH. In addition to plus velocity, the pitch had plenty of tailing and sinking movement thanks to his low 3/4, almost sidearm delivery. His curveball, his primary breaking ball, was a plus pitch as well. Sitting in the high-70s-to-low-80s, the pitch featured sweepy break with a well above-average spin rate. Rounding out his arsenal was a developing changeup that flashed plus. Sitting in the low-to-mid 80s, the pitch became an effective weapon against right-hand hitters as the 2016 season progressed and his work with pitching coordinator Ron Romanick bore fruit.
The southpaw had plenty of potential, but he also had plenty of warts, one of the pitfalls of prep draftees. He did not pitch inside very much. Thanks to his mechanics, he overthrew to his glove side. Out of the stretch, his pitches lost their crispness. He looked visibly uncomfortable fielding his position at times. The long arm action in his delivery caused it to drag behind his body, raises injury concerns. These are things that, with time, a young pitcher works on and refines. When Szapucki returns to the mound, he will have missed significant developmental time. In 2019, he will be 23-years-old, with 83.1 total innings under his belt, saddled with various precautionary measures limiting his workload.
Lukas Vlahos says:
All those durability concerns finally caught up Szapucki in 2017, knocking him off the top spot in the system. Tommy John is almost routine at this point, but the Mets don’t have a great recent track record of pitchers’ recovering quickly or smoothly (Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz try to wave, but their elbows spontaneously combust). Still, Szapucki was striking out 15 guys per nine innings in 2016, making him a volatile but exciting prospect that we’ll have to wait til 2019 to see.
Steve Sypa says:
I got to see Szapucki in Brooklyn in 2016, and I think he remains the pitcher with the best stuff I’ve ever seen on a minor league mound (excluding major leaguers on rehab assignments). If the southpaw had been able to pitch a full season, I think there’d be a very good chance that he’d be the Mets’ number one prospect.