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Notes from the Field: Thomas Szapucki’s 2017 Debut

After entering this season as a top 100 prospect and one of the top three prospects in the New York Mets system, Thomas Szapucki did not throw a pitch in an official game through the first two months of the 2017 season due to a shoulder impingement. On a pre-scheduled trip to Hagerstown during the first weekend of June to watch the Suns take on the Fireflies, I was lucky enough to be in attendance for Szapucki’s first outing of the year and his first career outing in full season ball. Similar to when I saw him pitch last year in Brooklyn, Szapucki featured a plus fastball in the 92-94 range, touching 95 mph, with impressive life. He remained at that velocity level for the entirety of his outing, which is especially encouraging in his first start back from an arm injury. His changeup remains roughly an average pitch with the potential to wind up as an above-average offering in the future. The changeup, which was generally in the 83-85 range last year, ticked up to 85-87 mph in his 2017 debut. He threw both of these pitches to left-handed and right-handed hitters alike and in all counts. However, noticeably absent from his repertoire was his best offspeed pitch, a potential plus curveball.

The curveball, which was his calling card coming out of high school in 2015, was a major reason why Szapucki was able to strike out 86 batters in only 52 innings last year and receive a nice placement on the BP 101 this past winter. For whatever reason, he didn’t throw the curve a single time in his return to the mound this Sunday. While that very well could just be because he’s still building up arm strength — his Single-A assignment was likely because he needed to be assigned to an affiliate with extended spring training coming to a close — it remains worth monitoring if and when Szapucki adds the pitch back into his mix this season.

On the whole, Szapucki looked very much like the athletic arm considered one of the most promising left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. While he struggled a bit to repeat his release point in his return to the hill, which affected his control and command at times, he is still a low arm slot lefty who has quality arm actions and mild levels of effort in his delivery. As long as he can remain healthy and eventually reintroduce a curveball to his repertoire, he should have a stake to the claim of being the top prospect in the Mets farm system this winter, assuming Amed Rosario is eventually called up to the majors.

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