Our positive and supportive Thomas Szapucki takes prior to his start on Wednesday are ice cold. In only his second big league game, the New York Mets lefty left little doubt that he’s not the answer for the ailing rotation.
In 1.1 innings of work, the San Francisco Giants scored 9 earned runs. This included 4 home runs in a series where every game included a possession by the 2001 version of Barry Bonds for at least one of the clubs.
Szapucki has been rocked once as a reliever and once as a starter in the big leagues. What’s next?
The Mets have an obvious change they can make with Thomas Szapucki
If Szapucki was a highly-rated prospect in his early 20s pushed into big league action this week then he would probably get another shot. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. He turns 26 next month. It’s an age where prospects begin to receive AARP information in the mail.
Szapucki has been amazingly effective as a minor league pitcher across his 208.2 innings of work by posting a 2.80 ERA and striking out over 11 batters per nine innings. But that’s the issue right there. It’s only a little over 200 innings. For a guy who debuted way back in 2015, it’s not nearly enough.
Injuries have taken their toll on him. The 61.2 innings he tossed in 2019 are the most in any single campaign. There is nothing to suggest he could get through and remain effective as a starter for a full 162-game schedule. This leads to the obvious next step if he remains with the Mets organization: it’s time to move Szapucki to the bullpen.
Will it happen this year? It probably should. Even if the Mets were hoping to store him in Triple-A for starting pitching depth, that’s not looking like a suitable option. I know it’s just one start but after getting beaten around in relief last season as well, there doesn’t appear to be any chance he can be trusted in such an important season as the 2022 campaign is.
The downside to this is obvious. The Mets suddenly have one less place to turn for multiple innings at the beginning of the game. Szapucki could certainly look brilliant in his next outing. However, it’s far more likely he doesn’t.
The thing about Szapucki is that he can actually be an option out of the bullpen next season. Although wild at times, he has been quite brilliant with strikeouts. He translates well as a reliever although his 2021 debut game would say otherwise. Perhaps he just wasn’t prepared for it.
Years have been invested into Szapucki as a starting pitcher. Before the Mets give up on him, it would be worth seeing how he does pitching in relief consistently. Most of the best relievers are failed starters anyway. The next step for him is to build up a reliever’s mentality and see if that gets some better results.