Phillies prospect Jake Thompson will make his major league debut on Saturday night against the San Diego Padres, replacing the injured Aaron Nola in the rotation. Thompson has had a dominating run at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the International League where he has gone 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts. Here is a scouting report on the right-hander and what you can expect from him going forward, including his fantasy outlook.
Name: Jake Thompson
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: January, 31, 1994
Drafted: 2012 – 2nd Round (Tigers)
High School: Rockwall-Heath HS (Heath, TX)
Pitching Arsenal & Mechanics:
Thompson has a diverse five-pitch arsenal consisting of both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.
Thompson has been throwing his fastball in the 89-93 range this year at Triple-A, but he has touched 96 with it in the past and the pitch would play up in a relief role. His two-seamer is a plus pitch that has worked well for him this season and he can use it to induce double play balls when necessary.
The 22-year-old’s slider is by far his best secondary pitch. He mixes it well in pitch sequences with his two-seamer and the sinker/slider combo keeps opposing hitters off-balance. It has a nice, tight spin on it and he throws it in the 85-87 mph. range. It’s a wipe-out pitch and is his go-to offering when he needs a big strikeout.
His other two pitches are a 12-6 curveball that is slowly-evolving and a below-average changeup. He’ll show these pitches at times and will need to develop one of them into at least an average pitch to have sustained success as a starter.
He has good control of his pitches and knows how to throw strikes, the problem is that his command is below-average. When his command is off it is very easy for hitters to barrel up on him and this will be problematic in the majors.
Thompson looks a little stiff on the mound before his wind-up, but his delivery is simple and fluid. He repeats it very well, which is impressive given his large frame.
Performance and Development:
The Phillies have made ground balls a priority within the system and Thompson has embraced this philosophy which fits well with his repertoire. This is likely the reason for his inclusion in the Cole Hamels trade last season – the Phillies saw a profile that would play well in their home park.
Thompson has said that lowering his pitch count and pitching deeper into games has been a priority for him this season and he has averaged over 6 innings an outing this season in his 21 starts.
Knowing these two things puts into perspective his declining strikeout rate which at first glance is alarming. He as gone from 11.1 K/9 in 2014, to 7.6 K/9 in 2015 (with Rangers & Phillies), to 6.0 K/9 this season.
He has the stuff (particularly with his slider) to miss more bats and he’ll need to do that more against better competition. It isn’t that he doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff – he does -it’s that he still needs to work on spotting his pitches better within the strike zone.
Once he gains better command he has a lot of strikeout upside, so personally I’m not concerned about the decreasing K/9 rate, I think it will increase once the Phillies are done tinkering with him and let him pitch.
"““I think I am becoming a more experienced pitcher. I’m able to be more efficient. In the past, I was a high pitch-count guy and rarely got into the eighth inning. This season I’ve already pitched eight innings three times, and I’m proud of that. It shows growth.” – Jake Thompson"
There isn’t much more projection left with Thompson, but he is still only 22 and could fill out a little more. Scouts were hoping that he would add a few ticks of velocity to his fastball, but that hasn’t happened.
His 6’4″, 235 pound frame makes him very durable and he should have no issue logging a lot of innings over the long haul. If he sticks in the rotation, he could be counted on to be an innings-eater.
Most scouts see Thompson’s ceiling as that of a #3 starter. There will be nights where he will look like more than that when his slider is on and he’s missing a lot of bats. He’ll also have nights where he’ll get shelled when his stuff isn’t playing up and he’s not commanding the zone.
He still has some developing left to do despite his incredible year in Triple-A and refining a third pitch will need to be a priority.
He should stick in the Phillies rotation the rest of the year due to Aaron Nola’s injury and innings limits being imposed on other starters like Vince Velasquez. But depending on what happens with Jeremy Hellickson this off-season, he could go into 2017 as the Phillies #5 starter.
As the Phillies continue to rebuild, he’ll have time to grow into a role. I think he could be a great high-leverage reliever with his great sinker/slider combo, but the Phillies will give him every opportunity to stick in the rotation.
I’m a little higher on Thompson right now than some other analysts, but I believe in his stuff and think that he is a pitcher who’s potential doesn’t show up well on the stat sheet. I have also been very impressed with the Phillies development of all of their bevy of young starters and have faith that the Thompson we see now is still a work in progress – remember he is still only 22.
Thompson is not a guy you need to go out and grab right away off the waiver wire. He has a very favorable matchup against the Padres in his debut, but I’d take a wait-and-see approach with him for now. Even when he is pitching well, I don’t think he’s going be a high strikeout guy this year and so he doesn’t offer much in 2016 as a fantasy commodity.
He’s not going to garner many wins either pitching for the Phillies and so he’s likely only going to help with ratios and that is an iffy proposition as he’ll likely mix quality starts with poor outings. At this point in the fantasy season most contending teams are trying to protect good ratios and Thompson isn’t the kind of pitcher to gamble on to help in other categories.
He might be a streaming option occasionally, but personally, I’ll just be monitoring him to see what he might offer in 2017.
In dynasty leagues, I’m definitely holding as there is plenty of future upside – especially with strikeouts – but I’m not necessarily looking to acquire either as he isn’t a slam dunk to reach his ceiling.