Mets prospect Thomas Szapucki is a 2022 “make or break” candidate

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We’ve had a lot of time to learn how to say Thomas Szapucki’s name. Debuting with the New York Mets Rookie affiliate back in 2015, he has been a guy on the franchise’s radar for quite some time now.

Injuries did get in the way, limiting him to only 6 starts in 2017 and an absence from the entire 2018 campaign. He returned in 2019 to toss a career-high 61.2 innings. Then came the 2020 season when all of minor league baseball was shut down due to the pandemic.

The promising year in 2019 with a 2.63 ERA was washed away. He returned in 2021 to go 0-4 with a 4.10 ERA in Triple-A over the course of 41.2 innings of work. In his one game with the big league Mets, Szapucki got rocked for 6 earned runs in 3.2 innings. He is now about to embark on a “make or break” year, likely in Triple-A.

Mets prospect Thomas Szapucki has a few things to prove in 2022

Injuries, yet again, cost Szapucki a large portion of the 2021 season. In all levels combined, dating back to 2015, he has logged only 190.1 innings of work. This hardly scratches the surface of what a player normally would over such a long period of time. It’s unfortunate. When Szapucki has been on the mound, he has been relatively good.

From 2016-2019, Szapucki never finished at any level with an ERA higher than 3.25. Although it was just the minor leagues, the ability to prevent runs was promising. He did it, too, with some high strikeout rates. As a minor leaguer, he’s averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings of work.

The lefty from Toms River was once a notable Mets prospect. Even at the start of last year, he was considered to be a guy the club could use sooner than later. During the team’s desperation to find starting pitcher help in 2021, he was viewed as a possible answer like so many other Mets pitching prospects had been before him. The story would go in a much different direction. Ulnar nerve transposition surgery during the summer knocked him out for the rest of the year.

Szapucki is expected, or at least was at the time of the surgery, to return on time for the start of the 2022 campaign. A newly lost campaign and continued inability to stay healthy could always have the Mets making new plans for Szapucki. As a lefty with high strikeout rates as a starter, I would have to imagine the team would be open to seeing what he can do pitching in relief.

An important season lies ahead for Szapucki. He needs it to be both a healthy and productive one before his age, 26 in June, catches up.

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