TD Top Prospects: #9 Lewis Thorpe
That’s exactly what I said when Lewis Thorpe’s name started popping up on national prospect lists this offseason. Shame on me - we’ve been tracking him here for months.
But the rest of you are forgiven. Thorpe has only been with the Twins since the middle of last year and was signed as a 16-year-old from Melbourne, Australia. He's only had eight starts in the minors. He wasn’t on many folks' radar going into the season – until the southpaw sprouted into his current 6’2” frame and flashed….
…a 92 mph fastball that can be dialed up to 95 at times. That led to 64 K in 44 IP in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, a league in which he was playing as a 17-year-old. Add that he’s left-handed and still growing and you can see why even national evaluators are paying attention.
The next natural step would be Elizabethton in the short-season rookie Appalachian League, which is where top draft pick Kohl Stewart ended his season last year. That would be a fairly conservative approach – but Thorpe would still be younger than Stewart was in that league. And if the Twins are feeling aggressive, he could find himself just a few hours south of the Twin Cities in Cedar Rapids as an 18-year-old.
That will be as close as he’ll get to Target Field for a while. Even if he doesn’t stumble at any level, he likely won’t make it to the majors as a starter until 2018. By then, even Ricky Nolasco’s 4-year deal will be finished. Thorpe would hopefully be filling out a rotation chock full of young high-end arms, including Stewart and JO Berrios.
He’s ranked #9 because players with this kind of upside are valuable. Clearly, everyone will feel a lot more comfortable if he starts climbing the minor league ladder – or even had a full season of pitching to evaluate. But a kid Thorpe’s age in the States would likely be entering his senior year in high school, and we would be debating exactly where he would fall in the first round of the MLB draft.
Like any 17-year-old pitcher, he has a long way to go and the odds are stacked against him. But he’s already surprised us plenty. There's no longer an excuse to not be paying attention.