Name: Thomas Szapucki
Weight: 180 lbs.
Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft, 5th Round (William T. Dwyer High School)
Born in Toms River, New Jersey, Thomas Szapucki’s family relocated to Florida when he was entering middle school in order to benefit his burgeoning baseball career. He eventually enrolled at William T. Dwyer High School, where he developed into one of the premier left-handed talents in the Palm Beach area. Thanks to a combination of stuff and polish uncommon for a high school senior and a commitment to the University of Florida, he dropped in the 2015 MLB Draft despite being considered by some a first-round talent. The Mets selected Szapucki with their fifth-round pick during the 2015 MLB Draft and the two sides were able to quickly come to terms relatively quickly, with the southpaw signing for $375,000, just $20,000 over the MLB-assigned slot value. He appeared in a handful of GCL Mets that summer, but his career began in earnest in 2016, when he reported to spring training with a much-improved attitude and work ethic. After impressing in extended spring training, the Mets assigned the 20-year-old to the Kingsport Mets, where he carved through the Appalachian League with little difficulty. He was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones at the end of July and finished his season there, handing the New York-Penn League with equal ease before a lower back injury prematurely ended his year. For the season, Szapucki posting a 1.37 ERA in 52.0 combined innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 20, and striking out 86, becoming one of the hottest Mets minor league prospects almost overnight.
A shoulder impingement delayed the start of his 2017 campaign, but when he finally got back on the field at the beginning of June, it looked like he would be continuing where he left off. Through six starts, the left-hander posted a 2.79 ERA with 24 hits allowed, 10 walks, and 27 strikeouts. Then, out of nowhere during his July 6 start, Szapucki began feeling 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 ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, the left-hander returned to the field on April 8, pitching an inning for the Columbia Fireflies. His pitch count and innings load was carefully managed for the entire year, and he ended up posting a 2.63 ERA in 61.2 innings thrown for the Columbia Fireflies, St. Lucie Mets, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, allowing 49 hits, walking 26, and striking out 72. The 2021 season seemingly was going to be a make or break season for Szapucki, and in some ways it was, as he made his major league debut, but not long after pitching three-plus innings in relief at Truist Park in Atlanta, he was put on the disabled list and had his season come to an abrupt end, as he underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery, a surgery that, according to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 62% of players were able to successfully return to the field, and 56% returned to the same or higher level.
Szapucki throws from a low 3/4 arm slot with a long arm action through the back. He is a thick 6’2”, 180-pound-or-more frame that should be able to handle the workload of pitching a full season, though because of the myriad of injuries and setbacks he has experienced, the southpaw has never really racked up the innings.
The left-hander’s fastball sits 90-95 MPH, averaging 92 MPH. He can sink the pitch and cut it, primarily relying on the sinker in 2021. Complementing his fastball, Szapucki throws a curveball and a changeup, the former of which flashes plus. Featuring a spin rate upwards of 2600, his curveball is a big breaker that sits in the high-70s and features anywhere between 53 and 64 inches of vertical break and 2 to 11 inches of horizontal sweep. His changeup, which sits in the mid-80s, was relatively recently developed, and as such, still lags far behind as a third pitch. Featuring 33 to 39 inches of vertical drop and 9 and 17 inches of horizontal fade, it is an effective weapon against right-handed hitters when he has the pitch working.