The New York Mets are set to have the most dominant starting rotation in baseball this season, and they may have another future star ascending the ranks in LHP Thomas Szapucki. Szapucki, the third-ranked prospect in their farm system, spent the 2016 season with the Kingsport Mets as well as the Brooklyn Cyclones. With Kingsport, he gave up 16 hits in 29 innings while striking out 47 batters to walking just nine in five starts. With the Brooklyn Cyclones, Szapucki started four games, striking out 39 and giving up six earned runs on 10 hits.
A big part of Szapucki’s success in 2016 was his fastball that clocked in as high as 97 mph with movement that is often seen with left-handed pitchers. He has an almost sidearm delivery, which makes that fastball, along with a sweeping curve ball and changeup, extremely difficult to pick up. Despite his early success, it’s important to remember that Szapucki is just 20 years old and pitched less than 55 innings in total last season. He tires easily as the game progresses, and his pitches lose their pop when he goes out of the stretch. His fielding definitely needs some work, and he needs to put a lot of focus on learning to pitch batters inside. He sustained a lower back injury that ended his season early in 2016, but if he stays healthy, Szapucki can be a special player.
He has the power and the repertoire to be a potential first or second man in the rotation as seen with his numerous strikeouts, but until he pitches 100 or more innings in a season, it’s difficult to tell if he can withstand a grueling major league schedule. Don’t be surprised to see Szapucki climb up the minor league ranks rather quickly and be with the big club in a year or two. In all likelihood, the Mets won’t be able to pay all of their current starters the money they’ll deserve one their contracts expire, giving the young Szapucki a viable chance to earn a starting spot in the rotation when that time comes.