#5 LHP Thomas Szapucki
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 205 Level: Columbia
B/T: R/L Age: 06/12/1996 (21) Age Dif: -0.9
Acquired: Drafted by the Mets in the 5th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft (149th overall pick)
2017 Stats: 1-2, 2.79 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS, 29.0 IP, 1.172 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 8.4 K/9
Previous Rank: 6
Arguably, Szapucki has the best stuff out of any pitcher in the Mets farm system. He has a sweeping curveball (Grade: 60) which is tough on both left-handed and right-handed batters. He has increased velocity to the point where his fastball routinely sits in the mid-90s with him topping out around 97-98 MPH (Grade: 65). Each and every year, Szapucki improved his change-up, and it was to the point where that pitch was becoming a weapon against right-handed batters.
That was until he left a July 7th start with forearm discomfort. Given the history of the Mets organization, teams officials and fans alike knew Szapucki was heading for Tommy John surgery. Indeed, Szapucki would undergo the surgery on July 19th. Given how the Mets typically use a 12 – 18 month rehab period for Tommy John, the earliest we could see Szapucki pitch again will be the Instructional Leagues held after the conclusion of the 2018 season.
The surgery and rehab is an important factor in Szapucki’s development. In 2010, Steven Matz needed the same surgery, and he needed more time than most pitchers to return from the surgery. While it did not stand in the way of Matz becoming a Major League pitcher, health has certainly become an issue in Matz’s young career as he has twice needed season-ending surgeries on his pitching elbow.
Matz and Szapucki are two different pitchers, Szapucki’s young career had been plagued by injuries even before the Tommy John surgery. Earlier in 2017, Szapucki had a shoulder impingement in his pitching arm, and in previous years, he had battled both back and neck issues.
Still, not even these injury issues could blur the immense and potential front-line starter talent Szapucki possesses. With each passing year, Szapucki has continued the transformation from two pitch thrower to a three-pitch pitcher. He’s also a pitcher with much better mechanics, which is important when you consider his neck, back, and arm health when he returns to pitching in 2019.
#4 SS/3B Mark Vientos
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 185 lb Level: Gulf Coast & Kingsport
B/T: R/R Age: 12/11/99 (17) Age Dif: -3.3 (Kingsport)
Acquired: 2017 second-round draft pick from American Heritage High School (Plantation, FL)
2017 Stats: 51 G, 211 PA, 191 AB, 23 R, 50 H, 14 2B, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 2 CS, .262/.318/.398
Previous Rank: 10
Like all prospects, what entices you about Vientos is not what he is, but what he could be. And what he could be is an extraordinary hitter and mainstay at third base for years to come. However, for that to happen, Vientos will have to change many things.
With Vientos possessing quick hands, good bat speed, and an ability to drive the ball, he was seen as one of the top prep bats in the 2017 draft class. Due in large part to his being just 17 years old, he began the season in the Gulf Coast League, which, fortunately for him, is just an hour away from his hometown.
After an initial adjustment period, Vientos began to show the Mets why they drafted him. In the Month of August, he hit .305/.339/.467 with four doubles, two homers, and seven RBI. During this stretch, we saw not just the quick hands and bat speed, but also his ability to drive the ball. As he matures physically, he promises to drive the ball even further.
As a corollary to that statement, his growth will likely coincide with him moving off of shortstop. As it is, he is not well suited for the position as he has below average speed, which in turn, leads him to have below average range. However, he is able to fake it there because he is a smart baseball player with a strong arm. Likely, over time, this will lead to a position change for him.
Hopefully, the position change will be at third base as he does have the tools to play that position well. If not, Vientos does promise to have a good enough bat that will play at first base or either corner outfield spot. Really, the question for him going forward is just how quickly he will mature physically, and what position he will ultimately find himself as he progresses towards the majors.
11-9 Led by Ronny Mauricio