Left-hander Thomas Szapucki’s assignment to Brooklyn did not only serve as a promotion from Kingsport. It also was a homecoming.
Szapucki grew up in Toms River, New Jersey. At age 10, his family relocated to Florida -- in large part so Szapucki could have the best chance at succeeding in baseball, although also because they were "sick of the cold," he said.
Szapucki eventually committed to the University of Florida, but instead signed with the New York Mets in 2015 after getting selected in the fifth round out of high school in West Palm Beach.
After opening this season with a 0.62 ERA and 47 strikeouts -- both Appalachian League bests -- in 29 innings with Kingsport, the 20-year-old Szapucki was promoted to the New York-Penn League. He tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his Cyclones debut in Sunday’s 3-0 win against the Staten Island Yankees. The attendees at MCU Park included roughly 15 relatives who still live in South Brunswick, Edison and Kendall Park, New Jersey.
"I hadn’t seen them for half a year, so it was fun," Szapucki said.
The Mets did not have to offer Szapucki an outlier signing bonus to have him pass on playing for the Gators. He received $375,000. The average signing bonus for the 30 picks in that round was $322,833.
"My goal overall was to play pro ball," Szapucki said, noting he can get a college education later on the Mets' dime.
When the Mets drafted Szapucki, amateur scouting director Tommy Tanous described the southpaw as having a hard-to-hit slider that was a "wipeout" pitch. Szapucki indicated that he actually throws a curveball, but he had a lower arm slot in high school that might have led to some confusion. His fastball now sits at 93-97 mph. His changeup has come a long way in the 14 months since he was drafted, including just in his short time with Brooklyn while working with pitching coordinator Ron Romanick.
"I worked with all the pitching coordinators and coaches with different grips that would work for me," Szapucki said about the changeup. "Really, it was mostly a grip thing. I always knew how to throw it. Once we got a grip that started to work, it started to become like a plus pitch."
As for his success with Kingsport, Szapucki said: "If you have an idea of how to control your pitches and how to get ahead of batters, you should have a lot of success there. For me, I was able to get ahead of a lot of batters and I was able to use my offspeed pitches effectively."
Average: Brandon Nimmo, Vegas, .337; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .334; Walter Rasquin, Kingsport, .326; Amed Rosario, Binghamton, .321; Victor Moscote, GCL Mets, .319; Tomas Nido, St. Lucie, .317; Gavin Cecchini, Vegas, .313; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, .299; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, .298; Reed Gamache, Kingsport, .297.
Homers: Johnny Monell, Vegas, 16; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 14; Dilson Herrera, Vegas, 13; Marc Krauss, Vegas, 12; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 12.
RBIs: Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 72; David Thompson, St. Lucie, 72; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 70; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 65; Amed Rosario, Binghamton, 56.
Steals: Champ Stuart, Binghamton, 30; J.C. Rodriguez, Columbia, 15; Patrick Biondi, St. Lucie, 15; Amed Rosario, Binghamton, 14; Jacob Zanon, Brooklyn, 14.
ERA: Thomas Szapucki, Brooklyn, 0.52; P.J. Conlon, St. Lucie, 1.93; Luis Silva, GCL Mets, 2.00; Harol Gonzalez, Brooklyn, 2.14; Ricky Knapp, Vegas, 2.19; Luis De Los Santos, GCL Mets, 3.26; Merandy Gonzalez, Brooklyn, 3.35; Jake Simon, Kingsport, 3.41; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 3.51; Gabriel Llanes, Brooklyn, 3.56.
Saves: Corey Taylor, St. Lucie, 15; Alex Palsha, St. Lucie, 14; Paul Sewald, Vegas, 11; David Roseboom, Binghamton, 7; Akeel Morris, Binghamton, 6; Beck Wheeler, Vegas, 6.
Strikeouts: Joe Shaw, Columbia, 104; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 97; Chase Ingram, Columbia, 94; P.J. Conlon, St. Lucie, 91; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 88.
Dilson Herrera was scratched from Las Vegas' game on Tuesday. However, it turns out the move was unrelated to Jose Reyes nearly simultaneously suffering a strained intercostal muscle that will sideline him at least for a few games. Herrera slept funny on an overnight bus trip from Las Vegas to Fresno late Monday. Herrera is hitting .300 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 50 at-bats with Las Vegas in July.
Sean Gilmartin landed on the Pacific Coast League disabled list on Sunday with shoulder soreness. Ricky Knapp was promoted all the way from St. Lucie to take Gilmartin’s start. Knapp tamed Reno’s high-powered offense in his Triple-A debut, allowing two runs in seven innings on Monday. Gilmartin is expected to miss one more start, so Knapp should remain with Las Vegas at least for the short term. Earlier this season, Knapp -- a 2013 eighth-round pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University -- made a spot start for Binghamton during a doubleheader and tossed a complete game.
Highly touted Binghamton shortstop Amed Rosario has been sidelined for two games with lower-body soreness. Rosario is hitting .354/.405/.525 in 26 games since a promotion from St. Lucie.
Reports out of Rochester indicate the International League club might be receptive to switching affiliations from the Minnesota Twins to the Mets after the season. The Mets’ player-development agreement with Las Vegas also is expiring.
Left-handed reliever Josh Smoker got a lot of frequent-flier miles, but he did not get to make his major league debut on Tuesday. Smoker arrived in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the doubleheader as the 26th man. He did not appear and did a U-turn. Smoker had traveled overnight by bus from Las Vegas to Fresno with the 51s on Monday night, then flew from there to New York on Tuesday.
Center fielder Desmond Lindsay, a second-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Florida, made his delayed season debut with Brooklyn on Saturday after four games tuning up in the Gulf Coast League. Lindsay had been slated to begin the season in the New York-Penn League, but was slowed by a hamstring injury.
Left-hander Anthony Kay, the UConn product from the same Long Island high school as Steven Matz, has been working out at the organization’s complex in Port St. Lucie since signing for a reported $1.1 million as the 31st overall pick in the draft. Kay ultimately is expected to be assigned to Brooklyn this season, although nothing is imminent.
Members of the inaugural edition of the Brooklyn Cyclones, who shared the New York-Penn League championship in 2001, were honored on Saturday at MCU Park. The attendees included Lenny DiNardo, Wayne Lydon, Joe Jiannetti, Joel Zaragoza, David Bacani, Sean Pittman and Michael Cox. Angel Pagan also played for that team, which had its championship series halted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Tyler Pill became the all-time winningest pitcher in Binghamton Mets history when he earned his 24th victory with the Eastern League club on Saturday. He broke a tie with Mark Cohoon, who pitched for the B-Mets from 2010 through '13.
Since returning from the DL on July 20, Binghamton left fielder Jayce Boyd is hitting .458 (11-for-24) with five doubles and a home run.
With the trade of Akeel Morris to the Braves for Kelly Johnson and with Beck Wheeler’s promotion to Las Vegas, David Roseboom has assumed Binghamton’s closing duties. He is 7-for-7 in save conversions. Opposing batters are hitless in their past 19 at-bats against him spanning seven appearances.
Seton Hall product Josh Prevost, who had been sidelined with an elbow injury, tossed five scoreless innings on Tuesday in his first appearance with St. Lucie since May 31.
Left-handed reliever Ben Griset, a 13th-round pick out of St. Mary’s College of California in 2013, lowered his ERA to 0.66 with five scoreless innings over two appearances against Lakeland. Griset, whose fastball has tremendous sink, has surrendered one earned run since May 1.
St. Lucie left fielder Kevin Kaczmarski is hitting .388 with six RBIs and has a .483 on-base percentage in 13 games since a promotion from Columbia.
Before an 0-for-4 night Tuesday, speedy Columbia outfielder Enmanuel Zabala had been 12-for-26 with six runs scored, a home run, three RBIs, and five steals on the Fireflies’ road trip while flashing an excellent glove.
Joe Shaw, a 12th-round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2015, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning for Columbia on Monday. Scouts love his strikeout ability. Shaw has an organization-best 104 Ks in 104 1/3 innings. Shaw's alma mater had five pitchers selected in the first dozen rounds of last year’s draft.
Andrew Church is 4-0 with a 0.63 ERA in four starts with Columbia this season.
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