Posted by Thomas Brennan at 10:00 AM
One can only hope that Kevin Kaczmarski and Tom Szapucki don’t quit Mets baseball to open up a law firm (Kaczmarski and Szapucki, LLC) in Poland.
Kidding aside, one of the minor league’s biggest pleasant surprises of 2016 was Tom Szapucki. Drafted in the 5th round out of high school in 2015, the fireballing lefty barely got to the minor league mound, and what he did on it (while very short) may have led some to think “busted pick.” 2.1 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs. Ugh. But no walks and 3 Ks, a glimmer of what was to come.
2016 was sheer dynamite for the 6’2”, 205 Szapucki. He started out pitching in Kingsport like Sandy Koufax on a rehab assignment (5 starts, 29 innings, 2 earned runs, 47 Ks). Time to promote Mr. Koufax – off to Brooklyn Szapucki went.
Results? Boring, you know, same old Koufax-like dominance: 23 IP, 6 earned runs, 10 hits, 39 Ks, striking out 10 or more in his last 3 starts. A man against boys. Of the 6 earned runs in Brooklyn, 4 came in his last start in which he went 5.1 IP, fanned 10, and allowed 3 hits and 3 walks. OK, yep, that’s his bad start.
Overall, before he was disappointingly shut down as a precaution due to a cranky back in mid-August, he compiled 52 IP, and had 86 K (14.9 K per 9 innings), just 26 hits allowed and a 1.38 ERA. Only his 20 walks served notice that he is not yet ready for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
I just have this funny feeling that like PJ Conlon, who threw 20 brilliant innings for Brooklyn in 2015, only to follow it up with the lowest ERA in all of baseball in 2016 spanning Columbia and St Lucie, Szapucki is going to pick up where he left off and torch full season A ball in 2017 in similar fashion.
He just needs to refine command of his already good secondary pitches to complement the 97 MPH heater – and take care of that back. My prediction? If healthy, he fans 200 this year, in which he turns 21 in June.
Assuming healthy progress, he could be another elite joining the starting Mets rotation by 2019. Wait, we already have a ton of great starters? Oh well, we’ll figure something out.