The Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects countdown continues here at TBOH with the #3 player on our list.
Of the fourteen players who have either been or will be mentioned in our top ten Phillies prospects countdown (five were given credit as “the Field” in our #10 slot), seven are homegrown signings or draftees, and seven came in trades within the last fourteen months.
Of those same fourteen, six are pitchers and eight are position players. The latest trade acquisition to make the list, and our highest-ranked Phillies pitching prospect, is right-hander Jake Thompson.
Thompson came to the Phillies as part of the deal with the Texas Rangers for Cole Hamels at last season’s trade deadline. He joins Jorge Alfaro, who we ranked in our #6 slot, as a piece of that deal to make our top ten, with still one more product of that trade to come in the countdown.
The 6’4, 235 pounder was originally chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft as the 91st overall selection. Thompson had just graduated from a Texas high school, and turned down a scholarship with Texas Christian University to sign with the Tigers.
He made a sensational debut that same summer with the Tigers rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League, producing a 1.91 ERA and 0.847 WHIP over 28.1 innings (7 starts) in which he allowed just 14 hits. He also had a strong 31/10 K:BB ratio that summer.
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With A-level West Michigan the following season, Thompson had a 3.13 ERA in 17 games, 16 of them starts. Over 83.1 innings he allowed just 79 hits, with a 91/32 K:BB ratio. Yet another strong season followed in 2014 at High-A Lakeland in the Florida State League, and Thompson was promoted to AA Erie, but he only had the opportunity to make two starts there.
The Tigers clearly had a strong pitching prospect on their hands. But that didn’t stop them from trading him away when a need arose and he was the price. As the 2014 trade deadline approached, Detroit sent Thompson to the Rangers along with relief prospect Corey Knebel in exchange for closer Joakim Soria.
Texas kept him at AA, and he finished out 2014 strong. But last season, Thompson found himself still back at AA Frisco in the Rangers farm system. He was a bit less successful, but still pitching well, and was more than three years below league average as a 21-year old.
After his trade to the Phillies, he was sent to AA Reading and dominated. Thompson recorded a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with the Fightin’ Phils, allowing just 33 hits in his 45 innings pitched across seven starts. His K:BB rate of 34/12 was a down a bit, but he was impressive nonetheless.
Over parts of four minor league seasons to this point, Thompson has a 25-17 record, having made 71 starts among his 73 pitching appearances. He has allowed 333 hits in 374 innings pitched, with a 364/131 cumulative K:BB ratio.
His talent was universally acknowledged by our seven staff members polled for the TBOH countdown. All seven of us put Thompson in our individual top five. Only he and the two players who finished above him can make that claim.
The most conservative was Ryan Gerstel, who put Thompson at #5 on his list. “The 6’4,” 235-pound right-hander features an above-average fastball and a nasty slider that should be his go-to strikeout pitch in the majors,” said Gerstel. “With his large frame, Thompson could develop into a solid second or third starter workhorse.”
Our two senior staff members, myself and Ethan Witte, placed Thompson in our #4 spots. It’s certainly no slight to the talent of the big righty. We each had the same prospects in our 1-2 slots. I had Mark Appel in my own #3 spot, while Witte had young pitcher Franklyn Kilome as his #3 Phillies prospect. The team certainly should feel happy to have three such talented young arms developing.
Thompson throws both a low-90’s two-seam fastball and a four-seamer, a curve, and a changeup. He also has what Bernie Pleskoff for MLB.com described in his late-summer 2014 scouting report on Thompson as a “wicked slider.” Pleskoff described the Thompson repertoire this way:
“…the fastball and slider form the foundation of his repertoire. He can generally throw both of his two main pitches for strikes, using them in combination roughly three-quarters of the time. He induces ground balls with the sink on his fastball and can use that pitch to end an inning with a double play or to get out of a jam.”
Last September, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan had the following to say on Thompson, as reported by Jordan Hall at CSNPhilly.com: “I’ve been impressed with him. He’ll show you a major-league slider. Like a lot of minor-league guys, it’s not there every time. But yeah, it’s in there. He’s going to have a good mix of pitches when it’s all said and done to come up here and pitch.“
There was some speculation that he might end up in the pen when drafted, but he has definitely shown the durability to remain in the rotation. He projects as a solid #3 starter in a contending rotation, with the possibility of becoming a #2 in time.
Tyler DiSalle and David Mosemann each made Thompson their Phillies #2 prospect here at TBOH, while both Alexis Girardo and Mike Azzalina had him in the #3 spot on their lists, the latter stating: “Thompson was the perfect change of scenery player in 2015…If he can improve his changeup…he could reach his number two pitcher ceiling. If not, the Phils have a future workhorse for the back-end of the rotation.”
This is a future Phillies rotation member in the final stages of his developmental process. All Thompson needs now is to remain healthy and continue producing in the same effective, workhorse manner as he has been throughout his minor league career to this point. Given those two things, we will see him in Philly in September, if not sooner, and he will challenge for a role in the 2017 rotation right out of spring training a year from now.