Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 205 Level: Rookie Kingsport Mets & Short-Season A Brooklyn Cyclones
B/T: R/L Age: 06/12/1996 (20) Age Dif: -1.4 (w/ Brooklyn)
Acquired: Drafted by the Mets in the 5th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft (149th overall pick)
Last Year: #24
2016 Statistics: 9 G, 52 IP, 4-3 W-L, 1.38 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .145 BAA, 86/20 K/BB, 2 HR
148 picks had gone by in the 2015 MLB Draft before a local kid from Toms River, New Jersey was selected by the New York Mets in the fifth round for $375,500 out of William T. Dwyer High School in Florida. Thomas Szapucki may not be a household name to all Met fans yet, but he sure will be.
The 20-year-old left-hander entered the 2016 season with just 2.1 innings under his belt as a professional, appearing in three games for the GCL Mets in 2015. While his debut was underwhelming, tossing a third of an inning allowing four runs on four hits with no strikeouts, his next two appearances went much smoother, totaling two innings of one hit ball with three strikeouts.
The Mets sent their heralded young prospect to the fall instructional league to work on the mechanics in his delivery. Szapucki worked on raising his arm to a three-quarters position, which allowed for less stress on his shoulder and arm and improved the velocity on his fastball, which regularly sits in the mid 90s and can reach the upper 90s as well.
The instructional league seemed to do wonders for Szapucki, who entered 2016 with the Kingsport Mets. Luis Rivera, the Kingsport manager, noted how poised he was for his age, adding that Szapucki can have a very bright future because his repertoire plays well.
That bright future was on display for his 2016 debut on June 23 for Kingsport, where Szapucki tossed six-innings of two hit ball, while striking out 13 batters. He struck out the side twice on the night, however, Kingsport fell to Elizabethton 4-3. Sazpucki would go on to make four more starts for Kingsport, allowing no more than two-runs in a game (July 4), and had strikeout totals of six, eleven, eight, and nine.
On July 21, the Mets challenged Szapucki and promoted him to Short-A Brooklyn Cyclones, where he was nearly a year and a half younger than the rest of the competition. He made his Brooklyn debut three days later against the Staten Island Yankees, where Szapucki went 5.1 shutout innings on four hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts. His ensuing three starts all registered double-digit strikeouts, however, he would have trouble with command by walking 11 batters in his four Cyclone starts. His season would soon be cut short due to a lower back issue.
Overall, Szapucki’s 2016 season was about as dominant as a 20-year-old could have: a 4-3 record in 52 innings pitched, with a sparkling 1.38 ERA (which would’ve been the lowest ERA among all non-complex short season pitchers had he qualified), and a 0.88 WHIP.
In September, the Mets awarded their young lefty with the Sterling Award for Kingsport, the equal for the Most Valuable Player in each Mets affiliate. Szapucki was one of only two Met pitchers to be honored with a Sterling Award, along with Organizational Pitcher of the Year, P.J. Conlon.
The Mets have become a model in Major League Baseball on developing young, hard-throwing starting pitching. Szapucki is the latest prospect to emerge with a ton of intrigue and excitement, and will continue to work on limiting the walks and utilizing his changeup that he showed off in Brooklyn.
“I’m definitely very happy with how my changeup is progressing,” Szapucki told MLB.com. “Earlier in the year, I didn’t really have a changeup. I mostly just used it for effect and to change the batter’s bat speed. But now, I consider it to be an out pitch.”
Mike M adds –
It was an unbelievable breakout season for the young lefty that had double digit strikeouts in five of his nine starts and held opponents to a measly .460 OPS.
Szapucki showed off a plus breaking ball in 2016, a sweeping curveball that was tough on lefties and righties alike. The combination of a plus fastball and curveball from the young lefty gives him top of the rotation potential.
Much attention will be placed on Szapucki in 2017, but the future looks once again promising for yet another hard throwing pitcher out of the Mets farm system. He could start the season with the Columbia Fireflies, but it shouldn’t be long before getting promoted to the St. Lucie Mets.
2017 MMN TOP 100 PROSPECTS