8. Thomas Szapucki
Height: 6’2”, Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: 6/12/96 (22)
Acquired: 5th round, 2015 Draft (William T. Dwyer High School, Florida)
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. In the end, Szapucki signed with the team for $375,000, just $20,000 over slot value. He threw a handful of innings for the GCL Mets that year, and after reporting to spring training in 2016 with a much-improved attitude and work ethic, Szapucki 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 aplomb when promoted to the Brooklyn almost a month later, posting a 1.37 ERA in 52.0 combined innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 20, and striking out 86. A lower back injury ended his 2016 season prematurely, and a shoulder impingement delayed the start of his 2017 campaign, but the southpaw looked like he was continuing where he left off when he got back on the field. In 6 starts for the Columbia Fireflies, Szapucki posted a 2.79 ERA, allowing 24 hits, walking 10, and striking out 27. 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 throws from a low 3/4 arm slot, imparting movement and deception in his pitches. The long arm action in his delivery caused it to drag behind his body, raises injury concerns. 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. He can locate his pitches to all four quadrants when he needs to but generally does not pitch inside very much.
Steve Sypa says:
Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn made Coney Island the place to be in the summer of 2016. The southpaw dominated the Appalachian League and the New York-Penn League, and while you should always take low minors numbers with a grain of salt, Szapucki had the stuff to back it up. Of course, we are Mets fans and we can never have nice things, and he missed a season-and-a-half due to injuries ultimately needing Tommy John to fix. Given the trajectory of Marcos Molina’s career, I can’t find myself getting particularly excited about Szapucki until he is back on the field showing he still has that electric stuff.
Lukas Vlahos says:
I love Szapucki, and I’m already kicking myself for not putting him higher on my initial list. He missed most of 2017 and all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John, but the results were legitimately stupendous. The stuff matched, with a mid-90s fastball, a useful changeup, and a curveball that was already plus. If his recovery goes well and he picks up where he left off, he’s a legitimate potential ace. He also might be Marcos Molina and never have his stuff come all the way back- though his mechanics were better than Molina’s were pre-injury. Keep your fingers crossed.
Kenneth Lavin says:
One of the most exciting pitching prospects in the system before missing most of the last two seasons to Tommy John Surgery, Szapucki should be ready to return to the mound at some point in 2019. Ultimately, I’ll feel better about ranking him in the top ten once I see how the stuff rebounds from Tommy John. Szapucki showed a tantalizing combo of plus velocity and an advanced power breaking ball from the left side before the injury issues arose, and if the stuff bounces all of the way back, he has the potential to be a very effective starter down the road. However, his mechanics do remind me of Marcos Molina’s in a lot of ways, and I’m slightly worried that the stuff won’t come all the way back. Even if the stuff doesn’t make it all the way back, Szapucki still has a big league future in my opinion, because of how advanced the breaking ball was, and the fact that left-handed pitchers get plenty of chances to prove that they belong.