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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Twelve

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What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, June 23rd to June 29th?

Thomas Szapucki
Steve Sypa

Hitter of the Week

Luke Ritter

2019 Season: 12 G, 43 AB, .256/.340/.488, 11 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 BB, 10 K, 0/1 SB, .281 BABIP

Week: 6 G, 22 AB, .364/.444/.636, 8 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 5 K, 0/1 SB, .412 BABIP

Luke Ritter
Steve Sypa

Luke Ritter was drafted this year, in the 7th round out of Wichita State. He signed for $10.00k, which meant that about $200,000 could be allocated to Matthew Allan. In his freshman year with the Shockers, Ritter hit .272/.372/.373 in 43 games. He experienced something of a sophomore slump in 2017, hitting .223/.348/.349 in 55 games. He regrouped that summer, playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League and hitting .353/.443/.500 in 37 games. Returning to Wichita State for the 2018 season, Ritter took those gains with him, hitting a career-best .341/.420/.484 with six home runs and six stolen bases in 55 games. His performance led to the Minnesota Twins drafting him with their 37th round pick, the 1114th overall pick, but the utilityman elected to return to Wichita for his senior season instead of signing with them as the Shockers just missed out on getting to the College World Series. Unfortunately for him and the team, Wichita did much worse in 2019, but it wasn’t through any fault of Ritter. He earned All-Conference honors in 2019, hitting .336/.458/.555 in 59 games, hitting a career-best nine home runs and stealing a career-high twelve bases.

Ritter reminds me a lot of Jeff McNeil. The likelihood that Ritter’s career mirrors that of McNeil’s are slim-to-none, but there are many parallels between the two. Ritter is 5’11”, 190-pounds and McNeil is 6’1”, 190-pounds. As hitters, they are both quick to the ball with short swings that have a little bit of pull-side pop. They’re both tough strikeouts. Neither are particularly good runners but they have generally good instincts and are good for 5-10 steals. They both profile best as second basemen because their arms are only average, but they are both athletic and can also fake it at third or in left.

Ritter feels like the kind of player that the system really doesn’t have: a gamer that grinds out at-bats, is tough to strike out, and fights in every at-bat.

Pitcher of the Week

Thomas Szapucki

2019 Season: 11 G (8 GS), 21.2 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 5 ER (2.08 ERA), 10 BB, 26 K, .260 BABIP

Week: 2 G (2 GS), 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER (1.29 ERA), 2 BB, 8 K, .071 BABIP

Thomas Szapucki
Steve Sypa

In his first season back on the mound since Tommy John surgery, Thomas Szapucki has been on a pitch count and innings limit for the season, so if you’re expecting much numbers wise, don’t be. He started the year at 30 pitches/two innings, he’s at about 55/four innings now and by the end of the year, it’ll probably be about 90 pitches/six innings. Innings aside, all in all, he’s had an encouraging return from the surgery. He was experiencing some soreness in his arm early on, and that is why he was shut down for a few weeks in mid-April and mid-May, but he’s found his groove and he’s been getting consistent work for about a month now.

Szapucki’s fastball is currently 89-94, sitting 91-93 MPH. While the fastball still isn’t at where it was when he burst on the scene in 2016, it’s getting there. Back in April, his fastball was more 87-90 MPH, touching the low-90s instead of sitting there. Assuming no major setbacks, hopefully he’s back to sitting 92-95 and touching 97 in no time.

His secondaries are taking a little more time to get back into game shape, but that’s normal for Tommy John recoverees. His curveball velocity is where it needs to be, 77-79 MPH, but he is still guiding the pitch more often than not, altering his arm angle and speed a bit to float the pitch where he wants it to be. He is telegraphing his changeup as well, slowing down his arm, but Szapucki’s changeup was never well developed to begin with. He took to a new grip at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 that was showing promise, but because of the lost developmental time from his torn UCL, did not have much time to refine and improve it.

If you look at Anthony Kay’s return from Tommy John surgery as a template, his fastball velocity returned in 2017 but his secondary pitches were still lagging behind in their return to form. He only really got a good feel for his curveball this season- part of the reason for his success in Binghamton this year- a year after returning to the field and is still finding changeup. By 2020, assuming no setbacks, Szapucki should have his fastball velocity back and should be well on his way to finding his curve.

Unfortunately, because of his age and the fact that his UCL tore at an inopportune time, the southpaw lost a lot of critical developmental time. Already 23-years-this season and turning 24 next June, he only has 105.0 professional innings under his belt and two pitches. It may be in both Szapucki and the Mets’ best interest to fast track his development by converting him into a reliever.

Past Players of the Week

Week One (April 4-April 13): Travis Taijeron/Chris Flexen

Week Two (April 14-April 20): Ronny Mauricio/Harol Gonzalez

Week Three (April 21-April 27): Danny Espinosa/Anthony Kay

Week Four (April 28-May 4): Will Toffey/Tommy Wilson

Week Five (May 5-May 11): Carlos Gomez/Harol Gonzalez

Week Six (May 12-May 18): Patrick Mazeika/Anthony Kay

Week Seven (May 19-May 25): Mark Vientos/Anthony Kay

Week Eight (May 26-June 1): Travis Taijeron/Harol Gonzalez

Week Nine (June 2-June 8): N/A

Week Ten: (June 9-June 15): Ronny Mauricio/Chris Mazza

Week Eleven: (June 16-June 22): Dilson Herrera/Michel Otanez