Just over two years ago, the New York Mets were very high on left handed pitcher Thomas Szapucki. Szapucki was in the midst of a breakout campaign for Low-A Columbia, going 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA in his first six starts of 2017 before being shut down due to elbow pain. The result was Tommy John surgery, which knocked Szapucki out of action for the rest of that year and all of 2018 as well. Szapucki is back in action this season, and he is the focus of this week’s edition of Minor League Mondays.
The Mets sent Szapucki back to Columbia to start this season, and he performed very well down there. Over 11 appearances with the Fireflies, including eight starts, Szapucki pitched to a 2.08 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while striking out 26 batters in 21.2 innings pitched. The Mets were encouraged by what they saw, promoting Szapucki up to High-A St. Lucie earlier this summer. Szapucki has continued to pitch well at a more advanced level, going 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA over his first three starts with St. Lucie.
The good news is that scouts are high on Szapucki, who features a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s and touched 97 miles per hour prior to the Tommy John surgery. Szapucki also has an excellent curveball and an improving changeup, with that third pitch’s development being the key to whether he becomes a big league starter or a reliever. It is encouraging to see Szapucki already having success in his first year back from the procedure, and he should become sharper the further away he gets from the injury.
The Mets will have to add Szapucki to their 40 man roster this offseason, which they likely will do to protect him from the Rule V Draft. Szapucki should spend the rest of the year with St. Lucie, and if all goes well he could begin 2020 with AA Binghamton. The Mets have a crop of pitching in the lower levels of the minor leagues that should begin ascending over the next couple of years, and Szapucki is among the most intriguing options in that group.