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New York Mets' Prospect Spotlight: Thomas Szapucki

John Flanigan of HardballScoop.com profiles a left-hander who burst onto the minor league scene in 2016 with the Mets.

Thomas Szapucki, a left-hander from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft with the 149th-overall pick by the New York Mets. He came into the 2016 season with only 2 and 1/3 professional innings over three games in his very brief minor league career.

During the 2016 season, Szapucki threw a combined 52 innings with Rookie-ball Kingsport and Short Season A-ball Brooklyn. In those 52 innings, opponents hit to an average of .145 against the lefty, while pitching to an ERA of 1.38. Szapucki struck out 86 batters and walked twenty. Only two other pitching prospects, both relievers, posted a higher strikeouts-per-nine innings rate than Szapucki’s 14.9 mark. His 2016 season was ended short when he was shutdown as a precaution due to a stiff back. The lefty outperformed all expectations with his performance during the 2016 season.

Szapucki possess a deadly combination of average velocity and an excellent breaking ball. His fastball currently sits around 92-94 mph, and can bump up a couple of notches, at times hitting 97 mph. His curveball, his out pitch, has some excellent late movement and has the ability to be a plus pitch for the southpaw. The weakest pitch in his arsenal has to be his changeup. 

However, Szapucki relied primarily on his fastball and breaking ball with Kingsport, so while he was with Brooklyn he began to try to utilize his changeup. Organizational pitching coordinator Ron Romanik worked with the lefty to develop a different grip for the pitch before he moved on to Brooklyn. The more and more he pitched with the Brooklyn, the more comfortable he looked with the new grip, making the pitch much more effective against right-handed hitters. The pitch is borderline average, as he is starting to get more of a feel for it.

There is obviously still a substantial amount of work the kid needs to put in. His command and control are still a work in progress, however he still should have the ability to be an above average pitcher in the majors one day. Going into his first full season in the minors, he currently sits as the Mets' fourth-overall prospect and the second-overall pitching prospect in the system. We’ll see if the lefty takes another big step forward during the 2017 season. 

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