Jake Thompson To Debut Saturday
It started last year with Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff. But Saturday, the first of the three marquee names in the 2015 Cole Hamels’ trade makes his big league debut with the Phillies. Jake Thompson came to the club last July with other top-flight prospects Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro, injured MLB starter Matt Harrison, and Asher and Eickhoff, in exchange for Hamels and lefty reliever Jake Diekman. This weekend he becomes a big leaguer, and the 2000th player ever to wear the uniform of the franchise, (as has been tracked by The Good Phight’s @tgpschmenk, among others).
Thompson was drafted by Detroit out of a Heath, TX high school in 2012, and traded to Texas in 2014 in the Joakim Soria deal. He’s been on national Top 100 lists since the following offseason. Through four months of this AAA season, the 22-year-old Thompson has compiled an 11-5 record with a 2.50 ERA, (substantially outperforming his 3.76 FIP, for whatever that’s worth), with a WHIP of 1.095. He’s not giving up a ton of homers, 10 thus far, for a reasonable 0.69/9IP ratio. (Note that I didn’t make the joke here – you all assumed it. I said “reasonable”). I’d call it a solid if not inspiring year, with his Ks dropping off from over 20% last year at AA, to just shy of 17% this year at Lehigh Valley. His walks have generally stayed in the very respectable range of 7-8% throughout his time in the upper minors, and this year is no different.
Now, Eickhoff has been a bit of a surprise, as he’s out-pitched his perceived value at time of the trade, to the point where he looks almost like what we expected from Thompson – a mid-rotation horse capable of racking up quality innings all year long. As it stands, and though Thompson’s ceiling probably remains a bit higher, I personally won’t be at all upset if the 6’4” righty plays to about the same level as Eickhoff. That may say more about The General that it does about The Machine Gun. (Yeah, I don’t love that nickname either. I’ll take suggestions, if you have them, provided none of them have the word “snake” in them).
In Matt Winkelman’s Midseason review, he mentioned issues Thompson seems to be having with his slider this year. That’s something to watch for during the game on Saturday and beyond. If he’s truly struggling with what had been his best secondary offering, we could see him abandon it in the short term in favor of the rest of his five-pitch arsenal. That includes a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, which has generally sat in the mid-low 90s, a curve and change, neither of which will likely dominate opposing MLBers.
I saw Thompson last year in a AA playoff game at Bowie, MD. He looked then like what I was expecting, and though his current stats and reporting suggest he’s diminished some, I wouldn’t assume he can’t find that extra something for any given game. He was absolutely dealing that hot September night last year, keeping a decent lineup at Bay, even at the end of a long season. Starting tomorrow, we’ll get a chance to see how he closes out an even longer year, this time with the stress of starting for a big league club, albeit one without any added pressure to actually, you know, win baseball games. Which is nice, I imagine.
There’s little doubt Thompson will be in line for a rotation spot next spring, with the only foreseeable complications being a very strong spring from Ben Lively and/or Ricardo Pinto, an unexpected free agent pickup or QO signing by Jeremy Hellickson, or a brazen service time manipulation by the front office.
How many of the franchise #2001-#2050 Phillies will Thompson outlast? (I’ll guess 40. Check back on the day he leaves the org and we’ll see if I’m right). If this young man can stay healthy and perform up to the standards he’s set for himself with strong minor league performances thus far in his career, one can only hope that this will be the start of a long tenure in Philadelphia.