The situation: Jake Thompson was going to be the next starter up for the Philadelphia Phillies. The most likely scenario was his taking Jeremy Hellickson's spot after a deadline deal sent the crafty veteran packing for a contending team that needed to stabilize their rotation for the home stretch. That never materialized, but Aaron Nola's elbow woes have opened a spot for the Phillies top pitching prospect, albeit not in the way the phaithful would have preferred.
The background: Thompson was a second-round pick of the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2012. He was dealt twice during his minor league career, heading first to Texas for Joakim Soria, then to Philadelphia as part of the Cole Hamels deal. He's pitched well everywhere though, using an above-average fastball/slider combo to cruise to the majors at the age of 22. He entered the year as our no. 3 prospect in the Phillies system, and has made the Top 101 two years running, most recently clocking in at no. 36 on our midseason Top 50.
Scouting Report: Thompson is a big righty, built to log innings in the middle of a major-league rotation. He will flash more than just third starter potential at times, especially on the days when his slider looks like a bona fide plus pitch instead of only flashing. This year it has backslid a bit, so he can lack a true swing-and-miss offering, but his four-pitch mix has been enough to dispatch International League hitters. The fastball has sat more in the 89-92 range in 2016, and the change and the curve require further development to even grade out at average. Thompson fills up the zone with all his pitches, but the command profile lags behind his control at times.
This perhaps doesn't sound all that exciting. Certainly not as exciting as what I wrote preseason for our Phillies Top Ten list. But Thompson is only 22, and if the slider gets back to being a consistent backfoot weapon, he will have an out pitch to play the starring role in his deep arsenal. But part of the reason mid-rotation starters can be so aggravating, is start-to-start sometimes they look like 2s and sometimes they look like 5s.
Immediate Big League Future: And Thompson may be frustrating to watch in the majors until he gets a bit more consistency with his stuff and command. On evenings when the slider is working, he may look every bit the top 50 prospect. Other nights the stuff may be too hittable, and he'll muddle through five before leaving with runners on. The Phillies are loaded with young talent, and in a lost season giving Thompson opportunities to start making adjustments against major league hitters may pay dividends as soon as 2017, even if it might not always be a pleasant viewing experience for Phillies fans. Then again, they watched David Buchannan, Jerome Williams, and Aaron Harang makes starts down the stretch last year. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Fantasy Take: Jake Thompson isn’t a phenom who’s going to take the league by storm. He’s a mid-rotation starter who should get to pitch every fifth day for the rest of the season, provided he doesn’t get hit hard enough to get sent back to Triple-A. His 2.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in Triple-A this year were excellent. However, his peripherals aren’t nearly as good. Start with his pedestrian 6.1 K/9 in Triple-A: it strongly suggests that he won’t put up many strikeouts for your team. Add in his decent 2.6 BB/9 and a picture starts to emerge of a pitcher who will be in or around the zone most of the time with stuff that doesn’t miss bats. Tread carefully, because that’s a recipe for a few disaster starts along the way.
If you’re in a tight race in ERA and/or WHIP, Thompson is too risky to consider. In deep leagues, Thompson is probably worth a buck if you need innings, but you’ll want to keep an eye on the schedule and bench him for the unfavorable matchups if possible. Keeper league owners could think about making a $1 bid on the big Texan, but his low strikeout mid-rotation starter profile doesn’t give him much in the way of upside. —Scooter Hotz
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