Name: Skylar Szynski
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 195
How Acquired: Selected in the 4th round of the 2016 MLB draft.
After coming out strong in spring training, Skylar Szynski looked poised to make the jump from Rookie ball to the Midwest League. Unfortunately, a late-spring elbow injury stopped those plans in their tracks. After avoiding Tommy John surgery, can Szynski make up for lost time in 2018?
Since the MLB Draft moved to a bonus pool cap format in 2013, the A’s have used at least one top-10 round pick on a high school prospect that they have gone over-slot to sign. In 2016, that high school prospect was Szynski, a high-ceiling right-handed pitcher out of Penn (IN) High School. Szynski received a seven-figure signing bonus from the A’s, and, in the process, he turned down a commitment to pitch at Indiana University.
The A’s eased Szynski into professional baseball during the summer of 2016, limiting his innings in the Arizona Rookie League to 13.1 spread over seven starts. Szynski spent most of that summer working with A’s coaches on side drills and getting acclimated to a professional throwing program and lifestyle. Szynski showed improvement throughout the summer and that carried over into a solid showing at the A’s fall Instructional League.
Szynski got off to a solid start in spring training this season, and his progress had the A’s player development staff contemplating a Midwest League assignment for the then 19-year-old. A few weeks before camp broke, however, Szynski began to experience discomfort in his forearm, which is often an early sign of UCL tears. The A’s and Szynski attempted to rehab the injury without surgery, but midway through the summer, it was determined that rehab wouldn’t be enough to return Szynski to full health.
Because Szynski didn’t have a full tear of the UCL in his right elbow, he was able to undergo a ligament repair surgery rather than a full Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. The repair surgery is relatively new around baseball, but it is designed to return players to the field in half the time that it takes players to return from Tommy John.
Thus far, Szynski’s rehab from the ligament repair surgery has gone well. He began his post-surgery throwing program in late November, which would put him on-track to participate in spring training. The A’s may hold him back at the start of the regular season to ensure that he is healthy, but if he returns to full strength, Szynski could join the Low-A Beloit Snappers’ roster once the weather in the Midwest warms.
When healthy, Szysnki is a significant talent. The right-hander is an excellent athlete with a strong, wiry frame. He has a repeatable delivery with a release that isn’t quite over-the-top and offers some deception for the hitters. His fastball sits 91-93 MPH and he has touched 96. He also has two secondary offerings that are fairly well developed considering his lack of professional experience. One is a change-up that sits in the low-80s (82-85 MPH) and the other is a high-70s curveball. He is able to command the curveball, using it both to freeze hitters for called strikes and generate swings-and-misses.
During his brief time as a pro, Szynski has proven to be coachable and has shown an ability to make adjustments. He turned 20 midway through the 2017 season, and if he is able to log innings in the Midwest League this season, he will be right on-track in terms of his age versus his level.
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