Weight: 175 lbs.
College Commitment: University of Florida
Back in the fall, MLB Advanced Media announced their new Statcast operation to track everything about the game, from outfielder's routes, batter's exit speed on a batted ball, and pitcher spin rate. The latter of just a few of the wonders of Statcast's piles of data that will soon be open to the public, spin rate has become an important measurable (call it a market inefficiency if you will) to effectively evaluate a pitcher. More importantly though, spin rate tells us why certain pitchers (and pitches) are effective. If you look at a leaderboard of spin rates, guys like Garret Richards and Max Scherzer sit atop the list; not exactly mind-bottling. You would expect a guy with a great breaking ball, like Scherzer, to have a solid spin rate that trigger swinging strikes. However spin rate, measured through a TrackMan device, allow us to quantify (by RPM, revolutions per minute) just how much better a Scherzer breaking ball is than, say, a pitcher with a weaker breaking pitch.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan released an article about his sneak-peak at some of this data. Mentioned in the article is Colin McHugh, maybe the poster boy for the Astros' analytic crusade. Most of us probably know the story of the Astros telling McHugh, who threw a lousy fastball most of the time, to focus heavily on his curve, which had a ridiculously high RPM. He did, and the rest is history. Luckily, we can use this data to measure draft prospects on a small scale, thanks to Baseball America, Perfect Game and Trackman. Look no further than Florida prep lefty Thomas Szapucki, a projectable lefty who holds the best average RPMs among the other prep pitchers in his class.
Through RPM is an exciting way to measure prospects like Szapucki, it's not like I'm finding in some diamond in the rough here. Szapucki is a known quantity who's participated in the Perfect Game circuits and showed up on John Sickels' top 200 prospect list (he was #141). Szapucki sits in the low 90s with his fastball, topping out at 95 mph. According to TrackMan data collected by Baseball America from a PG showcase back in June, Szapucki's fastball topped out at 2545 RPM, meaning that it has more sinking, live movement on it than any prep pitcher in his class.
Mostly due to his youth, Szapucki's breaking ball isn't a plus or anything yet. I've seen it labeled a curve and a slider in different places, and he probably tinkers with it when he needs certain action on the pitch. It has flashes of a plus offering, and should be at least major league average over the course of his development. Indeed, his breaker reached 2853 RPM at that same showcase, blowing everyone out of the water in a field that included well-regarded prep pitchers such as Mike Nikorak, Beau Burrows and Ashe Russell.
The knocks on Szapucki are twofold; first, he's exclusively a fastball and breaking ball guy right now. He's working on a changeup that's coming along, but it's way behind his other stuff and needs some developing. Secondly, he has a pretty unique delivery that might scare some scouts off. He throws from a pretty low 3/4 arm slot, and the delivery is considered high-effort, though it does make his pitches deceptive. Scouts don't love that, and without three solid pitches he might project as a reliever in the future. Though development time is needed, there's a lot to like in the Szapucki starter kit. His solid fastball, sharp curve and deceptive delivery sounds like a bad time on left-handed hitters, and it's a great starter kit to have for a prep pitcher. Factor in the natural spin and movement he has on his pitches and his projectability, and Szapucki could end up being one of the more underrated prep arms in this class a few years down the road.
A few question marks here; does he grow into his frame and add some strength? Can he progress a third offering? Will his delivery hold up? If yes to two of the three, Szapucki could end up as a solid MLB starter, and at worst an even better reliever.
Will He Sign?
Szapucki hasn't been rumored to be anywhere in the first round, which could persuade him to play three years in Gainesville. However, if he's sought-after by a team with money to blow in this draft (i.e. the Astros) he probably signs.
(from Jheremy Brown)