Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #8 Lewis Thorpe
Age: 23 (DOB: 11/23/1995)
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 129.2 IP, 3.54 ERA, 157 K, 36 BB, 1.24 WHIP
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.
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
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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