With Noah Syndergaard out, Mets should use prospect Thomas Szapucki in rotation

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Thomas Szapucki image that works
Thomas Szapucki image that works

The Mets' starting pitching situation is starting to improve, and the rotation got a huge jolt when Jacob deGrom returned from the IL on Tuesday night and looked like his regular dominant self.

New York also got good news on Taijuan Walker, who is progressing quickly as he works his way back and could return on Friday.

But even if Walker is back within the next few days -- joining deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson in the rotation -- the Mets will still be down one starter.

The above is what made the timing of the setback suffered by Noah Syndergaard extra painful.

Syndergaard will be shut down for six weeks due to inflammation in his elbow and will likely not be able to return until late August at the earliest.

Syndergaard's long absence, paired with the fact that Carlos Carrasco is not expected back until late June or early July, means the Mets will need to keep turning to a different No. 5 starter for the next month or more.

Feb 24, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) walks on the field during spring training workouts at Clover Park.
Feb 24, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) walks on the field during spring training workouts at Clover Park.

Enter Thomas Szapucki?

In the original version of this article, published on May 26, I wrote that the Mets should call up Szapucki. On May 27, the Mets did just that, adding Szapucki as their 27th man for Game 2 of their doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies.

The left-hander last started on May 22, so he will be fresh if/when the Mets use him.

It's been a long road for the 24-year-old Szapucki, whom the Mets picked in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft.

Szapucki has been one of the Mets' top pitching prospects since he was drafted, but he lost a large chunk of the 2017 season and the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Since 2019, Szapucki -- with the Mets being extra careful with his workload and innings -- has been working his way back.

He had a 2.63 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 71 strikeouts in 61.2 innings across three minor league levels in 2019 before losing a year of minor league development in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mets started Szapucki in Triple-A Syracuse this season, where he has a 2.77 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings (two starts, one relief appearance).

While Szapucki perhaps isn't the high-ceiling prospect he was six years ago, the talent and impressive pitch mix is still there.

Here's what SNY contributor Joe DeMayo wrote about Szapucki as part of SNY's latest top 20 Mets prospects list:

Szapucki has been on the radar as a highly-touted Mets prospect seemingly forever with a fastball that sits in the low 90s that will touch 95 mph and a wipeout breaking ball, both with big time spin rates on them. ... I think Szapucki might be more of a back-end type starter than a No. 3 type he had been previously touted as possibly being. There is also the option to scrap his below average change-up and make him a two pitch power reliever where his stuff could tick up even more.

Szapucki threw 72 pitches over four scoreless innings in his last start, so the Mets would have the option to use him as a starter or as a "bulk inning" guy after an opener.

Other bulk inning options include Sean Reid-Foley and Robert Gsellman, but the Mets would arguably be in a better spot by utilizing Szapucki every fifth day and freeing themselves up to use Reid-Foley and Gsellman in other spots as needed.

It is unclear how far Szapucki can be pushed in each start/bulk appearance or what his overall innings limit might be. But with Joey Lucchesi having been largely ineffective and Jordan Yamamoto out until late July, now seems like the time to see what Szapucki can offer.