MMN Top 5 Left Handed Starters: Szapucki Leads The Way

By Corne Hogeveen

January 26, 2017 7 Comments

Photo Credit: Allen Greene Photography

Photo Credit: Allen Greene Photography

We have voted on our Top 5 at every position in the minor league system. This time it’s the left-handed starting pitchers turn. We already did shortstops, third baseman, catchers, second basemanfirst baseman, outfielders and right handed starters.

This list provides our #4 prospect, a 2016 first round draft pick, a lefty out of Texas, a 17th round pick and this year’s Sterling Pitcher of the Year.

#5 Sixto Torres

2016 team: GCL Mets & Kingsport Mets

2016 Stats: 11 G, 4-5 W/L, 2.43 ERA, 55.2 IP, 58 H, 19 BB, 51 K, 1.38 WHIP, 8.2 K/9

The tall talented lefty was the Mets 17th round pick in the 2015 draft and got a $100,000 signing bonus.

Torres pitched for the Kingsport Mets and GCL Mets during his 2016 season. For the GCL Mets, Torres pitched to a 1.89 ERA before he got promoted to the Kingsport Mets. In Kingsport, Torres was not as successful but, he was still solid with a 2.70 ERA.

Torres is a tall lefty who features a low to mid 90’s fastball to go with a solid change-up and a hard curve which needs work to get better. His mechanics are solid as well as he reaches all the way back with his arm and fires across when he pitches. His arm does not fall behind his body as he takes a pretty long stride to home plate. I don’t foresee problems with his mechanics.

As a lefty with good velocity Torres is pretty intriguing. He still needs to work on his off speed pitches, but as a 20-year old there is a lot of time for improving and plenty of intrigue.

What’s next:

I expect Torres to pitch in the Brooklyn Cyclones rotation.

#4 Jake Simon

2016 team: Kingsport Mets

2016 Stats: 12 G, 2-5 W/L, 4.83 ERA, 12 GS, 63.1 IP, 70 H, 31 BB, 66 K 1.59 WHIP, 9.4 SO/9, 9.9 H/9

Like Torres at #5, Simon is a 2015 draft pick out of high school. Simon went six rounds in front of Torres as he was drafted by the Mets in the 11th round in 2015. Simon did not have the success as Torres did in 2016, but he’s still an intriguing arm to keep an eye on.

Simon provides a high 80 to low 90’s fastball with a curve and a change-up. He is just 6’2” 190 pounds which could indicate his fastball will eventually get some more zip to it as he fills out.

Simon had a tough season in Kingsport as he had trouble with his control walking 4.4  batters per nine. Positive note about his season is that his strikeouts per nine went up from 6.4 in 2015 to 9.4 in 2016.

What’s next:

Simon could be another part of the Cyclones rotation.

#3 Anthony Kay

2016 team: DNP

2016 stats: DNP

The Mets took Anthony Kay as the 31st overall pick in this years draft. The compensation pick for losing Daniel Murphy did not pitch for the Mets organization after he signed. Kay underwent Tommy John Surgery this year which could be part of the reason why Kay signed for just $1.1 million (872.000 under slot value).

In 2013, the Mets also drafted Kay in the 29th round of the 2013 but, he did not sign. Kay has some similarities with Steven Matz, as Kay went to the same high school (Ward Melville) and they both are lefties who got their TJS before making their pro debut.

When healthy Kay provides a low to mid 90’s fastball with an above average change which gives him a true swing and miss pitch. Kay also has a slider/slurve which he needs to improve. Kay also provides above average control which makes him a polished arm. This combination means he could move quick up the Mets system when healthy.

Photo courtesy of Al Rabon

Photo courtesy of Al Rabon

What’s next:

He will probably be in Brooklyn in 2018 in his return to the mound.

#2 P.J. Conlon

2016 team:  Columbia Fireflies & St. Lucie Mets

2016 Stats: 24 G, 12-2 W/L, 1.65 ERA, 24 GS, 142 IP, 115 H, 24 BB/112 K 0.97 WHIP, 7.1 SO/9, 7.3 H/9

What a season it was for the Northern Island born Conlon. The lefty was absolutely dominant for both the Fireflies and the St. Lucie Mets. The Mets took Conlon in the 15th round of the 2015 draft. Yes, another lefty in the 2015 draft just like Jake Simon and Sixto Torres.

In 2015 after Conlon was drafted, he came out of the pen in Brooklyn as he did not allow an earned run in 17 innings in the NYPL. This year Conlon started as part of the first Columbia Fireflies rotation. It was Conlon his first full season plus he was a starter for the first time in his pro career. Conlon didn’t disappoint by any means as he went 8-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 12 starts for the Fireflies before he was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets.

In St. Lucie he was even better going 4-1 with an outstanding 1.41 ERA in 63.2 innings pitched. Why did he had so much success? Conlon mastered his change-up which gave him a plus pitch to RH Hitters. Right-handers only hit .194 against Conlon while lefties hit .232 against him. He was also great when the pressure was on as opposing hitters hit just .152 with runners in scoring position against the lefty.

Conlon is not an overpowering pitchers as his fastball mostly sit in the high 80’s to low 90’s. His change-up is his best offering. Conlon has a funky delivery with good control and throws nothing straight. His movement and control gives him the ability to give him a lot of soft outs. I watched a couple of his starts on Milb. His most memorable start I watched was his 10-inning outing were he induced a lot of those soft outs. For me personally that was the start where I saw his full potential for the first time.

What’s next:

Conlon will be in big league camp and could very well start the 2017 season with the Binghamton Mets.  As a not overpowering control pitcher I’m very curious how he performs in the higher levels. So far he has been a pleasant surprise.

#1 Thomas Szapucki

2016 team: Kingsport Mets & Brooklyn Cyclones

2016 Stats: 9 G, 4-3 W/L, 2.08 ERA, 9 GS, 52 IP, 26 H, 20 BB, 86 K 0.88 WHIP, 14.9 SO/9, 4.5 H/9

Szapucki is the fourth lefty starter in this list who was drafted in the 2015 draft by the Mets. This makes that all pitchers in our top 5 lefty starters are drafted in the last two drafts as Kay was drafted in 2016. Szapucki was a fifth round pick (149th overall) and thus far it seems like another steal by GM Sandy Alderson and his team.

After a cup of coffee in the GCL after he was drafted (four runs in 2.1 innings), he showed his promise this season. Szapucki showed his dominance in Kingsport first. He made five starts in Kingsport and was absolutely dominant there.

He didn’t allow more than four hits in any start for Kingsport. He made four starts for the Cyclones after that and guess what? He didn’t allow more than four hits in those starts as well. At the end of his season in Brooklyn, Szapucki hit a rough patch as he allowed six runs in his last two starts before being shutdown with a stiff back late in the season. Still his time in Brooklyn was dominant with a 2.35 ERA and 39 strikeouts in just 23 innings.

Szapucki made some adjustments in his mechanics in the instructional league. Our own Matthew Brownstein said this in his work about Szapucki as he was named our #4 prospect:

”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.”

With his tweak in his delivery Szapucki added velocity to give him an above average fastball to go with a very good breaking ball. He uses it to both right handed and left handed hitters as he has success with that pitch against both. He’s also working hard to improve his change-up which shows in his numbers against RH batters. Right-handers hit just .115 against him in 2016 while lefties hit just .188. Szapucki made this comment about his developing change-up:

I’m definitely very happy with how my changeup is progressing,” Szapucki told “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.”

What’s next:

MLB Pipeline  had Szapucki on their list for prospects who will make a big impact in 2017. I expect him to show off his plus stuff in Columbia first as part of the Fireflies rotation. If he keeps dominating I expect him to be in St. Lucie relatively fast.