has blitzed through the Rookie-level Appalachian League. And after Sunday's stellar start against Burlington, it's easy to see how he's done it.
Last year's fifth-rounder out of Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., showed a three-pitch mix that makes it easy it to dominate less-advanced hitters. His arsenal, thrown from a three-quarters slot, starts with a lively fastball in the low-90s that touched 95 mph in the seventh inning on Sunday. He complements the heater with a breaking ball that can act as a traditional curve that drops in for strikes or one that he can shape into a more sweeping pitch to get swings and misses. He also has a mid-80s changeup that showed some fade.
After a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League in 2015 after signing, Szapucki has turned it on with Kingsport. Through 29 innings, the former Florida commit has allowed just five runs on 16 hits and has struck out 47 against just nine walks.
Since signing, Szapucki has raised his arm slot from low three-quarters to the more traditional version he utilizes now.
"I've switched my arm angle up a little bit. It's more of a three-quarters instead of a low three-quarters, and I've gotten my command to where it's a lot better than it was in high school," he said. "I've really benefited from that. Definitely more control (from the higher slot). My ball doesn't run as much and I can put the ball where I want to."
Royce Ring, the former big league lefthander and Kingsport's pitching coach, likes Szapucki's arsenal as it is but right now he wants him to focus on refinement of the changeup.
"(His curveball) is sharp. It's 12-6 at times and other times it gets a little slurvy; it all depends on where he's at with his arm slot. He's had a lot of success with it." Ring said. "We've been really trying to focus on throwing the changeup. I think he threw like six or seven tonight and we continue to push him throw that pitch as well to really round out the three-pitch mix. The changeup is actually good; I just want him to throw it."
Szapucki agrees with Ring that his biggest developmental hurdle this year is the refinement of his third pitch. He knows he can survive in the Appy League with just a fastball and curveball, but more advanced hitters at the higher levels will force him to have a third option.
"My changeup, definitely my changeup location and keeping those mechanics fluid and able to get on top of the changeup and actually throw it for strikes," he said when asked what he'd like to achieve this year from a developmental standpoint. "In high school I really didn't have a changeup—I had no need for one. I was pretty much fastball-curveball."
Aside from developing the changeup, Szapucki has a clear goal. He's eager for a promotion, first to short-season Brooklyn and then through the rest of the system as fast as he can.
"I'm trying to move up," he said. "I'll do the best I can to move up and help my team get some W's. I'm trying to move through the process as quickly as possible."