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Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #8 Lewis Thorpe

After a lengthy absence, Lewis Thorpe returned with back-to-back strong seasons, and in 2018 was recognized as the organization's most outstanding minor-league pitcher.

He's on track to make his MLB debut in 2019. What can we expect from the Australian southpaw?
Position: LHP
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/23/1995)
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 129.2 IP, 3.54 ERA, 157 K, 36 BB, 1.24 WHIP
ETA: 2019
2018 Ranking: 11

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NA | MLB: NA | ESPN: NA | BP: NA

What's To Like

There is no perfectly predictive statistic for pitching prospects. Nothing even close. But if you asked me for the best shorthand – the very first thing I will look at when assessing a minor-league hurler, after his age and level – it's K/BB ratio. As a general rule, high-quality pitchers rate well in this category, because it portrays the essential ability to throw strikes and make batters miss.

In this regard, Lewis Thorpe is exemplary. His 4.4 K/BB ratio ranked fifth among pitchers with 100+ IP in the Class-AA Southern League (two of the guys ahead of him were 29) and he basically replicated that mark during his late stint at Triple-A.

In total between the two levels, Thorpe threw 66% strikes, induced a 15% swing-and-miss rate, and posted a K% at the highest percentile.

The left-hander attacks hitters with mostly heaters from a three-quarters arm slot, mixing in a couple of different breaking-ball looks. He had a brutal run health-wise between 2015 and 2016, missing both seasons, but has looked strong and healthy since returning in 2017. Last year he pushed to 130 innings and stayed strong up until the very end, firing seven shutout innings for Rochester in his final start on August 31st.

In recognition of his altogether excellent campaign, the Twins named Thorpe their 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

What's Left To Work On

"As weird as it is to say for a dude who struck out 10 per nine in the upper minors, I’m not entirely sure what the true swing-and-miss offering is," wrote Baseball Prospectus in ranking Thorpe as Minnesota's ninth-best prospect. That's been a common refrain from skeptical scouting reports, which don't see the lefty's stuff quite matching up to his numbers.

It is somewhat conspicuous to see Thorpe get hit hard as frequently as he does, given the dominance otherwise hinted by his numbers. In one April outing at Double-A, he coughed up six runs (two earned) on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings, despite notching seven strikeouts with zero walks and inducing 16 whiffs on 87 pitches (18%). In a June start, also with Chattanooga, he yielded nine earned runs on nine hits, despite getting 16 whiffs on 85 pitches (19%).

Just odd. Thorpe gave up 16 home runs in 130 innings last year; by comparison, fellow left-hander Stephen Gonsalves (an extreme fly-ball pitcher) had surrendered only 20 home runs in 500 total minor-league innings when he was at the same age and progression level.

This would seem to speak to Thorpe's lack of a putaway pitch that BP and others have cautioned about. The 23-year-old mixes his unspectacular repertoire with good enough command and sequencing to overpower minor-league hitters for the most part, but he has his lapses, and gets beat more often than you'd expect from a pitcher who pounds the zone with swing-and-miss stuff. One wonders about how this formula will play in the big leagues.

Unless he can take at least one his pitches to the next level, Thorpe likely projects as a back-end starter or middle-relief arm. But there's still time for improvement and it's important to note he has only totaled 370 total innings since signing in 2012.

What's Next?

He'll be in big-league camp, but Thorpe is ticketed to start the season back at Class-AAA Rochester. There, it seems likely he'll pick up where he left off. The key will be finding consistency and eliminating those misfires that lead to big hits and big innings. The Australian southpaw certainly has the core tools necessary to be a rock solid big-leaguer, and will likely make his Twins debut sometime this summer.

Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
11. Nick Gordon, SS
10. Akil Baddoo, OF
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
7. Coming tomorrow!

Get to know more about these five Minnesota Twins prospects and much more in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It’s available in paperback or as an eBook.

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36 Comments

Let's hope the pitching geniuses can work with this guy!

    • nicksaviking and Original Whizzinator like this

I agree with the concenus and wish it could be better.He seems to be a third or fourth starter at best.Maybe something will click with him, or his third or fourth pitch needs to become a deceptive chase out of the zone. We shall see, the very good news is this is the first time in years a number of Twins farmhand pitchers will have the chance to make it in the major leagues and be above average for a rotation in 2 - 4 years.

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45, Dman and 3 others like this

Nick, what kind of velocity does Thorpe have on his fastball and his various breaking balls?

Excellent work, Nick. 

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 06 2019 08:11 AM

He's definitely a must watch, and I expect to see him in Minnesota at some point. It's nice to see him getting the walks under control, that was the big knock on him in 2013/14... 

 

I guess I'm not as sold on the criticism. He's got a 15% swing and miss rate. He may not have 1 pitch that's exemplary in that area, but if that's the case, then several or all of his pitches generate whiffs at a higher than average rate. To that extent, I'm guessing pitch sequencing is likely going to be what fixes those weird games that were pointed out. But I think it's a bit too soon to think he's the next Ricky Nolsaco. 

    • Twins33, nicksaviking, Dman and 3 others like this

Have been a fan of Thorpe since he was a 17-year old pitching winter ball down under.Expect he will take another step forward this year in his third year following his two year absence.Personally, would have him a couple slots higher than #8.

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Don't Feed the Greed Guy
Feb 06 2019 08:51 AM
"Nick what kind of velocity does Thorpe have on his fastball and his various breaking ball?"

Lewis'"Thorpedo" hit 95+ at the beginning of last year, according to a quick search. I'm sure Nick has more up-to-date information.

I'm intrigued by his BABIP #'s: .327 in AA (.247 avg.) and .321 in AAA (.244 avg.) Is it Thorpe's lack of a third pitch, and/or were his opponents lucky in 2018? Still, the number of dingers he surrendered is another indicator...

 

Nick, what kind of velocity does Thorpe have on his fastball and his various breaking balls?

This is from his MLB.com writeup.

 

His fastball will sit in the low 90s, touching a tick more at times, with solid command of it. His changeup is his best secondary weapon, an above-average offspeed pitch thrown with good sink. His two breaking balls are distinct pitches, with a tight slider and more of a pure curveball he mixes in effectively.

 

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

    • Don't Feed the Greed Guy and MN_ExPat like this

Sorry to see the section on his negative aspects, because that is a strong indictment.No matter what a pitcher has in his repertoire, if there is not a gotcha pitch it is going to haunt him.In MLB if they are not striking out they are launching the ball.  

    • caninatl04 and Doctor Wu like this

 

Nick, what kind of velocity does Thorpe have on his fastball and his various breaking balls?

 

He can touch the mid-90's, but will sit in the low-90's range. From a scouting scale standpoint that would be above-average to plus (55-60) for a lefty.

 

This was his self-scouting report from back when I interviewed him in Cedar Rapids before he missed so much time:

 

"My go to pitch is mostly my fastball and changeup. And now, the curveball and slider have picked up astonishingly. I can throw those pitches now where I want them, they’re nice and hard, and good sharp break."

 

http://twinsdaily.co...impressed-r2962

 

He was great in that start back then and it's my opinion he's been underrated, in part because he missed that time, since. 

 

Can't wait for him to reach the bigs, and I'll be at Target Field when he gets there!

 

 

 

    • pbrezeasap, Dantes929, Don't Feed the Greed Guy and 2 others like this

Maybe the key here would be for Wes Johnson to make a decision to concentrate on one of the breaking pitches with the goal of raising it to considerably above average.Would hope it would be the curveball, but any hanging breaking pitch is usually the launching pad in today's game.

    • caninatl04 likes this
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ashburyjohn
Feb 06 2019 09:49 AM

"As weird as it is to say for a dude who struck out 10 per nine in the upper minors, I’m not entirely sure what the true swing-and-miss offering is," wrote Baseball Prospectus in ranking Thorpe as Minnesota's ninth-best prospect. That's been a common refrain from skeptical scouting reports, which don't see the lefty's stuff quite matching up to his numbers.
 

Does he get an unusual number of called strikes?

I don't think it's entirely bad luck when Thorpe was getting hit since he was getting hit very hard.Most of the home runs and a lot of the other XBHs against him came early in the season.But his K and BB rates were pretty much the same all season, which is definitely sort of odd.

 

The scouting reports suggest he's always going to get guys out more with deception and surprise, which makes me think part of his problem early in the season was probably that hitters knew or were guessing what was coming a lot more often than they should have.Have there been any reports on him changing sequencing? Or was he tipping his pitches somehow?

I'd feel more confident about Thorpe if he had one elite pitch he could rely on to get some outs, but you can still have success in MLB based on command/control, pitch mix, and sequencing. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does in AAA this year and it should be fun to see him debut sometime in 2019 at the MLB level.

 

He's still a young guy, and missing 2 full years and 2017 still being something of a rehab year has undoubtedly set his development back on pitch refinement. Here's hoping for another healthy year where he can continue to work on refining the changeup and making one of his breaking balls a better option. He might not be all that far off from finding an approach that will be very successful for him

    • caninatl04 and Original Whizzinator like this

Our rankings:

 

Seth (8), Nick (12), Tom (6), Cody (11)

 

 

    • dbminn and caninatl04 like this

 

Nick, what kind of velocity does Thorpe have on his fastball and his various breaking balls?

 

Not Nick, but Thorpe is 91-94. His other pitches are typical velo differential. Changeup and curveball in the low-80s, curveball can be a little slower at times. 

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108Stitches
Feb 06 2019 10:46 AM
He and Alcala are overrated pitchers in this org in my opinion. There is no objective way he deserved minor league pitcher of the year over Tyler Wells by the organization.
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nicksaviking
Feb 06 2019 10:59 AM

Whomever worked with Kyle Gibson to improve his slider last year should be tied to the hip of Thorpe this year. I hope that guy is still on the payroll.

 

Mid 90's or low 90's fastball, nothing is better than a lefty with a killer slider.

    • AceWrigley and caninatl04 like this

Does anyone have a good comp for him? Ted Lilly? I have never seen him pitch. Just wanted a comp to help paint a picture. 

Clearly a guy who is going to have to "pitch".Probably not going to up the velo a lot, hopefully can develop the change/slider combo.Let's hope he's actually a back-end starter and not a "middle relief arm" like Nick says is a possible outcome.

    • caninatl04 likes this

 

Does he get an unusual number of called strikes?

 

http://www.statcorne...h.php?id=626929

 

No numbers on called strikes exactly, but all indications are that he gets plenty of swinging strikes, so I would guess that there is nothing out of the ordinary about his called strike rate.His contact rate is consistently below league average, his swinging strike rate comfortably above average, and his swinging K rate as a percent of all strikeouts seems to fluctuate around league average.All of this adds up to a guy who has gets lots of whiffs but without a go-to pitch.

 

    • ashburyjohn likes this
I'm getting a Taylor Rogers vibe reading about Thorpe. Maybe he's on the short call up list for the bullpen considering it wasn't addressed in FA or trades.
    • Mike Sixel and Tomj14 like this

Let's hope he's actually a back-end starter and not a "middle relief arm" like Nick says is a possible outcome.


I agree. I'd have to re-evaluate the entire strength of the prospects list if the #8 prospect in the whole organization was destined to be a middle reliever.

I know the new pitching coach is "Mr. Velocity", and who wouldn't want to add a tick or two to an already 60-ranked fastball. But I concur that to be more than a #4 starter, the brain-trust will have to figure out a plus breaking ball for him.
I'd be pretty happy if he's a number four starter. Or a great RP.
    • TRex, Twins33, Danchat and 3 others like this

Not a huge fan of Thorpe after seeing him live in the Future's Game last year. Relative to the other top prospects in that game, he was hit hard, struggled to miss bats, and just didn't have the stuff displayed by other pitchers. He topped out at 94, and was mostly 91-93, which for a single inning stint wasn't very impressive - most other pitchers in the game sat 95+. And just seeing him pitch, his physique (shortish and stockish), handedness, mechanics, and relative stuff immediately made me think of Brian Duensing.

 

 


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