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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

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Tom Froemming
Feb 06 2019 01:29 PM

One of the things I believe to be an X factor for Thorpe is how well he hides the ball. I'm going to share a few videos but before I do, DISCLAIMER, I'm not trying to suggest Thorpe is on the same level as these other guys. 

 

Take a look at some behind the plate footage of Thorpe: https://youtu.be/z2n6QStc5us?t=87

 

And compare that to fellow lefty Jesus Luzardo: https://youtu.be/RcBc40SGdsY?t=22

 

Or MacKenzie Gore: https://youtu.be/FKABC62i1Ec?t=34

 

To my eyes, Thorpe does an exceptional job at hiding the ball. Do you see what I'm saying, or am I nuts?

 

Luzardo and Gore, the two top lefty pitching prospects in the game per MLB Pipeline, certainly have other ways of creating deception. Luzardo has great arm speed and varies his windup while Gore has some exaggerated glove movements and a crossfire action. Again, Thorpe is NOT on the same level as those two guys, I'm simply using them as examples.

    • Nick Nelson and gagu like this

 

I'd be pretty happy if he's a number four starter. Or a great RP.

Maybe that explains the lack of trading for established talent, the other teams aren't that high on anybody outside the twins top 3?

 

Maybe that explains the lack of trading for established talent, the other teams aren't that high on anybody outside the twins top 3?

 

Hard to say for sure, other than every site has them as a top 4-10 system........

 

Also, since they pretty much never make trades (I know, new FO.....)....it seems more likely they just don't like to make trades to acquire MLB talent all that often. It seems fairly statistically impossible that they could almost never have the opportunity....

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howieramone2
Feb 06 2019 01:46 PM

 

Maybe that explains the lack of trading for established talent, the other teams aren't that high on anybody outside the twins top 3?

On the pitching side, I believe the FO is building up numbers below Rochester. Our major league ready or near ready, will be needed for emergencies, and those that shine will help fill the rotation next season. I'm hoping our best 12 arms head up north and no doubt we will see the rest sometime this season.

 

This may be a make or break season for Mejia, Gonsalves, Littell, Stewart, Thorpe, and to some degree Romero. This is going to be an interesting season, and the more I think about, the more I like the Perez pick up.

    • Doctor Wu and DannySD 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. 

 

John Danks

    • cmoss84 likes this
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The Billy Goat
Feb 06 2019 02:05 PM
Something about him reminds me of a lefty Scott Baker. Strikeouts in the minors turn into foul balls in the majors. But I'd take Scott Baker in a second. We need a left hander to step up into a solid starting role.
    • birdwatcher, Dantes929 and 70charger like this

 

Something about him reminds me of a lefty Scott Baker. Strikeouts in the minors turn into foul balls in the majors. But I'd take Scott Baker in a second. We need a left hander to step up into a solid starting role.

I was looking at his game logs and thought " A lot of strikeouts, few walks but a lot of pitches to get through 5 or 6 innings, so there must be a lot of pitches good enough for batters to not be able to put in play but not quite good enough to put them away. Must be a lot of foul balls. Sounds like Scott Baker. Scott Baker was good. I would take that."

 

That is what I was going to post independently but then saw your post.  I always thought of Baker as a decent #2 or a great #3. Baker had a nice fastball and a nice curve ball but I don't know if either could be called a signature pitch.It is worthwhile to point out that the league averages less than 50% quality starts so having a few clunkers is just par for the course.  Also worth noting that Thorpe is only 23 and missed two seasons. I don't think he is a finished product.

 

    • birdwatcher, LA VIkes Fan, dbminn 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.

 

I watched him pitch one game in Ft Myers and he was terrible.His velocity wasn't in the 95 range, more in the 91-93 range and he did not have the same command of his fastball as Kohl Stewart in the games I saw him pitch. 

 

Like you said, he did not appear to be athletic at all, and he made a terrible play on a bunt that just made him look bad.He looked out of shape and really labored on the mound.Maybe that was connected to the fact that he was injured and missed all of 2015 and 2016, but the Twins have been real conservative with his innings and pitch counts which could make some of his statistical success a mirage.

 

But, then, he only gave up 27 runs that year (2017) in Ft Myers in 16 starts so maybe the game I watched was an aberration.  

    • birdwatcher likes this

Very good article, and some interesting responses too. I've always thought Thorpe had lots of potential, but until I read this piece I wasn't aware that he didn't truly have an "out" pitch. Hmm. Hopefully, the pitching coach can help him to work on his slider, as some of you suggested. And yeah, he''s still young and doesn't have a lot of mileage on his arm after the long rehab period, so I'm still optimistic.

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 08 2019 11:10 AM

 

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.

 

Thorpe is considerably better than Rogers ever was. Rogers had some pretty big issues against righties.

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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 08 2019 12:35 PM
I remain optimistic on Thorpe’s future. Now that he has had a second full off season I think he might be underrated if anything. He’s got an above average fastball and change, and two breaking pitches that might show improvement this year. One thing Thorpe has over all other Twins pitching prospects is command/control. From what I heard, especially in the second half of the year is Thorpe’s command really started to take off.

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