Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Twins Daily's statement on civil issues

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:36 AM
Twins Daily believes Black Lives Matter.   Twins Daily believes that the yoke of systemic racism pulls us all down.   Twins Dai...
Full topic ›

Cleveland MLB team reportedly considering name change

Other Baseball Today, 12:36 AM
This is an AP article I lifted from the StarTribune web site.   https://www.startrib...sure/571623572/
Full topic ›

Watch the Live Play-by-Play of the Virtual Twins Playoffs

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:07 PM
With the real Twins around the corner, I have elected to sim to the playoffs to try and tease how the real club will do this fall, and as...
Full topic ›

Bonus Twins Schedule Stat

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 03:13 PM
Didn't see this posted elswhere. From The Athletic
Full topic ›

The #5 pitcher on the 1965 Twins

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 01:56 PM
Tim Flattery had a conversation with Dwight Siebler, who was the 5th start on the 1965 Twins World Series team (the Sandy Koufax series)....
Full topic ›

Can Lewis Thorpe Translate Whiffs into Results?

With two starting pitchers now in the mix who will not be available until well after the season starts, it's increasingly likely the Twins will open with at least one young internal option in the rotation. Among MLB-ready arms, Lewis Thorpe might be most intriguing.
Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
He's presently a decent contender to make the 26-man roster out spring training. Even if the Twins add another starter and push him to Triple-A, a healthy Thorpe is almost certain to play a role over the course of the season, and perhaps a significant one.

Named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018, Thorpe headed into this 2019 campaign with a head of steam. Twins Daily ranked him as the organization's eighth-best prospect coming in, noting that his less-than-dominant results seemed to belie the quality of his stuff, as reflected by an outstanding K/BB ratio and whiff rate.

Thorpe's paradoxical profile played out once again in 2019, except to an even greater degree, and this time Twins fans got to see it first-hand.

In 124 total innings between Triple-A (96.1 IP) and the majors (27.2 IP), the left-hander piled up 150 strikeouts. As Thieres Rabelo pointed out here last month: "Among the 73 pitchers who logged 90 or more innings in Triple-A last season, Thorpe had the highest K/9 (11.12), swinging strike rate (14.5) and was second in K% (29.5)." Not half-bad for a 23-year-old with four games of experience above Double-A entering the year. And during his fairly brief time in the majors, hitters kept missing on his pitches. In 12 appearances (two starts), Thorpe averaged 10.1 K/9 and his 11.8% swinging strike rate was higher than – among others – Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, and Brusdar Graterol.

And yet, the results just weren't there for Thorpe. Despite his terrific 28% K-rate between the two levels, he also allowed 68 earned runs in his 124 total innings of work (4.94 ERA). That includes a 6.18 ERA during his MLB debut. It's not like his whiffs were paired with poor control – he issued only 35 walks to go along with the 150 strikeouts – but once again the strong K/BB ratio didn't translate to shutdown production.

There are a few ways to look at this.

The pessimistic view is that Thorpe is doomed to this disconnect – capable of attacking the zone and running up the strikeout rate, but lacking the ability to get outs on a consistent basis. Do the strikeout and whiff numbers exaggerate his arsenal's true quality? He'd hardly be the first. Thorpe's limited Statcast data would seem to support this notion.

Attached Image: thorpestatcast.png


The more optimistic, and I think more fair, view is that Thorpe's results are still catching up to his stuff. He's finding his consistency. It's important to remember: he lost two full seasons (2015 and 2016) to health issues. Since returning, he's been fast-tracked, making relatively brief stops at High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A on his way to the majors. While he hasn't been amazing everywhere, he has shown the capacity to overpower hitters everywhere.

The Twins should probably plan on starting him back at Triple-A in 2020, but the 24-year-old could be poised for a big step forward and a sizable impact on the big-league club.

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • Mike Frasier Law, mikelink45, nclahammer and 2 others like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

33 Comments

Spin rate seems to be the mantra of this FO.This could be an issue here, or Thorpe has to refine his command to being able to hit his spots to a much greater degree than other pitchers.Can this be done, yes, but can he succeed?It seems to be a much more narrow plane than some other pitchers with better stuff.  

Maybe if you feel his ceiling is a #4 starter, you use him as part of a trade package to get better pitching.

Not much trade value after reading this page....

 

The kid's 23 y.o., for chrissakes.The question still remaining after this article is, given Thorpe's below-average Statcast data, how did he achieve remarkable whiff and SO rates?Stated another way, what did Thorpe do right and how does he do more of that?

    • scottz, gil4, Mike Frasier Law and 3 others like this

I've got two takes on Lewis Thorpe after following him through the minors and watching him in the majors last season.

 

1. He needs to drop his BB/9 by about 1 in order to be a serviceable pitcher. He had a couple times last year where he was just walking the house and it seemed to come out of nowhere. 

 

2. He did get unlucky last year according to his 3.47 FIP and 6.18 ERA, mostly because of a ridiculous .438 BABIP. While those indicators suggest he could have had a nice year, I don't know that I trust it. With his statcast numbers laid out above and his 91.5 mph fastball, his K rate seems to be the outlier. He could easily be a guy whose value absolutely tanks when he gets full exposure to the league, especially the righty heavy Central teams. He may be an intriguing arm to include in a trade for another higher end pitcher if a team values him currently. I don't know that he's the kind of arm that winds up anchoring another team's rotation that we regret for years.

    • bobs likes this
Photo
tony&rodney
Jan 03 2020 07:30 AM

If Thorpe is just a little more effective this year than Gibson was last year, then he will have progressed nicely. Pitching takes time as we have seen from Berrios and others. Gibson and Perez had uneven results and the Twins just need a little more consistency and slight improvements from the pitchers who pitch in those two slots. 

I'm afraid that there will be some pressure on Berrios and Odorizzi to be stronger though. That was a reason to slot someone (a FA signing) above those two. I am optimistic about the depth of the Twins pitching but concerned about their ability to be consistent. If the pitchers keep the scores down, around four, the offense should produce. A most concerning issue for many is the lack of an arm above Berrios, or to slide in above Odorizzi. At some point this season a trade seems likely, but I doubt any team will part with a pitcher the Twins need before July. 

    • birdwatcher, Mike Frasier Law, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

 

Not much trade value after reading this page....

 

The kid's 23 y.o., for chrissakes.The question still remaining after this article is, given Thorpe's below-average Statcast data, how did he achieve remarkable whiff and SO rates?Stated another way, what did Thorpe do right and how does he do more of that?

Just looking at his game logs, there's a pretty interesting trend that you notice. I remember watching his start against Cleveland on September 14 in particular. When he's putting up bad walk numbers, he's racking up his strikeouts. That Cleveland game I remember him lulling Cleveland to sleep by walking 3 guys in the first inning and then basically surprising them with strikes and striking out the side to finish the inning. Every outing he had but one where he had 10+ K/9 he also had a BB/9 of at least 3.60 which is going to get him in trouble.

Given the off-season the FO had so far they have to be banking on the fact that Thorpe is a legitimate starter this year and one that will have decent results.Otherwise why leave the slots open?Out of Smeltzer, Dobnak and Poppen, Thorpe has the best stuff IMO.Really the only thing holding him back is his fastball as it is far too hittable.If he can fix or improve that then I really believe he can be a mid rotation starter.If he can't then I think last years results pretty much define who he is as a pitcher moving forward.I mean even fangraphs acknowledged that he could have number three stuff because his secondaries are good enough.It is the fastball that somehow, someway has to get better.I sure hope the Twins know what they are doing.

"Effectively wild"?

    • Minny505 and MN_ExPat like this
Photo
In My La-Z-boy
Jan 03 2020 08:23 AM

As of now it is a certainty one of the lefty's, either Thorpe or Smeltzer heads north with the club in the rotation. Spring training results will determine this. I am both scared and excited to watch our collection of young starters this spring. We've positioned ourselves so that we need at least 2 of them to take a major step forward. Roll the dice gentlemen seems to be the bet. I'll bet on Dobnak and Smeltzer to begin the season. I am actually weirdly confident in Dobnak. I like his chances. His mental game seems superior to Thorpe's right now. Dobs is ready for this. We'll see who else is. Maybe Thorpe is ready as well. I hope so.

    • Dave The Dastardly and MN_ExPat like this

I am still hoping for Graterol at least for the suspension and injury start of the season (Pineda and Hill).So Thorpe or Dobnak can fill the other slot in the rotation.One of those three have to step forward.At this point Smeltzer and Poppen have not impressed with the kind of pitches that can be sustained as a quality starter over a full year.I like Smeltzer as the classic long man in the pen because he comes in as a contrast to the starter.I think he came in and did great as a starter last year because no one had a book on him at that point. 

    • In My La-Z-boy likes this

Huge fan of Lewis'. Became even more of one when I interviewed him in Cedar Rapids while Joe Mauer was rehabbing there before he missed a few seasons (one of them to illness, not injury).

 

He's got the stuff to be a good starter, as evidenced by several numbers here. What needs to catch up is his use of his fastball, where I think he got hit pretty good last year. Maybe he needs a version with some different movement, whether a cutter or 2-seamer/sinker.

 

He's also still very young. I wouldn't sleep on continued development that takes advantage of his current strengths in tandem with work to mitigate his deficiencies. I have more faith that he'll stick around than I do guys like Smeltzer and Dobnak.

    • rileyroy, Dman, DocBauer and 1 other like this

Thorpe's stuff is a little below average across the board. On the positive side, he has four pitches that are usable. He needs to improve his command/control a bit more and maybe fewer FB. 

 

Thorpe didn't have much luck last season either. He had a .438 BABIP in 2019 (batting average on balls in play). At worst, that'll drop to the .320s over an entire year.  

 

I think he'll be ok - a league-average SP in the long run.

 

I've got two takes on Lewis Thorpe after following him through the minors and watching him in the majors last season.

 

1. He needs to drop his BB/9 by about 1 in order to be a serviceable pitcher. He had a couple times last year where he was just walking the house and it seemed to come out of nowhere. 

 

2. He did get unlucky last year according to his 3.47 FIP and 6.18 ERA, mostly because of a ridiculous .438 BABIP. While those indicators suggest he could have had a nice year, I don't know that I trust it. With his statcast numbers laid out above and his 91.5 mph fastball, his K rate seems to be the outlier. He could easily be a guy whose value absolutely tanks when he gets full exposure to the league, especially the righty heavy Central teams. He may be an intriguing arm to include in a trade for another higher end pitcher if a team values him currently. I don't know that he's the kind of arm that winds up anchoring another team's rotation that we regret for years.

He's 23 but missed 2 years so I still have high hopes for him.Your #1 point is everything, or at least a lot of things.Pineda walked 1.7 per 9.Berrios was at 2.3. Odorizzi was a little bit of an outfiler but 3 of his best 4 seasons have been when his walk rate was 2.6 or less.Still, our 3 best pitchers had the 3 best walk rates.Walks translate into runs. Walks also indicate you probably have some issues with control inside the zone as well. Get walks down around 2 per 9 and he will be great.If he can't, he won't. 

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

He's the only young arm that I think fans should realistically be excited about. He can be a legit ML starter. Probably not an all-star but he should have a solid career. 

    • SwainZag, Dman and adorduan like this
Photo
jorgenswest
Jan 03 2020 09:22 AM
Thorpe used 4 pitches when he arrived last year. His slider is a major league plus pitch. His four seamer will play with his slider. The change up is the concern. He used it almost exclusively against right handed batters and it was not effective. If he goes to the minors it would be for the express purpose of developing that change up to help keep right handed batters off balance. I hope that is something that can be accomplished this spring. If there is any glimmer of hope in that change up I would have in the rotation until Pineda returns.

 

As of now it is a certainty one of the lefty's, either Thorpe or Smeltzer heads north with the club in the rotation. Spring training results will determine this. I am both scared and excited to watch our collection of young starters this spring. We've positioned ourselves so that we need at least 2 of them to take a major step forward. Roll the dice gentlemen seems to be the bet. I'll bet on Dobnak and Smeltzer to begin the season. I am actually weirdly confident in Dobnak. I like his chances. His mental game seems superior to Thorpe's right now. Dobs is ready for this. We'll see who else is. Maybe Thorpe is ready as well. I hope so.

Lets be honest the 5th spot will be a rotation of players going back and forth between AAA, unless one flat out is great. Thorpe starts and after the game he will be on a plan back to AAA Smelzter will be up ready to pitch in relief or the next start, then after the game he will be sent down and the next guy will be here. There really will be no reason to have 5 set starters, when then continue to keep guys fresh and innings count down by sending them down for 10 days. IMO

    • saviking likes this

 

 

He's 23 but missed 2 years so I still have high hopes for him.Your #1 point is everything, or at least a lot of things.Pineda walked 1.7 per 9.Berrios was at 2.3. Odorizzi was a little bit of an outfiler but 3 of his best 4 seasons have been when his walk rate was 2.6 or less.Still, our 3 best pitchers had the 3 best walk rates.Walks translate into runs. Walks also indicate you probably have some issues with control inside the zone as well. Get walks down around 2 per 9 and he will be great.If he can't, he won't. 

I wish Gonzo and Romero would have realized it was just that easy to fix. :)

    • scottz and Danchat like this

There really will be no reason to have 5 set starters, when then continue to keep guys fresh and innings count down by sending them down for 10 days. IMO

Don't know how much it affects your thinking, but I believe that the minimum stay for an optioned pitcher becomes 15 days in 2020.

    • USAFChief, scottz, Mike Frasier Law and 3 others like this

 

Thorpe's stuff is a little below average across the board.

Completely disagree with this.

I dunno, I’m skeptical that Thorpe will ever have much big league success. The MiLB numbers are definitely there, but in the times I saw him pitch last year I came away thinking he had absolutely no command of his pitches. If he can’t reliably throw the curve for a strike when he needs one, and if he can’t spot his fastball exactly where he wants it, I think he’ll have a really hard time. Major League hitters are good enough to spit on the breaking ball and hammer the fastball if he’s not hitting his spots.

I would love to be proven wrong.

 

Lets be honest the 5th spot will be a rotation of players going back and forth between AAA, unless one flat out is great. Thorpe starts and after the game he will be on a plan back to AAA Smelzter will be up ready to pitch in relief or the next start, then after the game he will be sent down and the next guy will be here. There really will be no reason to have 5 set starters, when then continue to keep guys fresh and innings count down by sending them down for 10 days. IMO

The rules have changed for this kind of movement and that is going to have a big impact on the rotation of young players 

 

Photo
jorgenswest
Jan 03 2020 02:48 PM

 

The rules have changed for this kind of movement and that is going to have a big impact on the rotation of young players 

 

Yes. It will impact the roster and the need for an extra pitcher. 

 

I think it will help the development where longer stays in AAA will allow them to work on the pitches that will help them be successful. In Thorpe's case he needs a better change up to keep right handed hitters off balance.

    • mikelink45 likes this
I really liked what I saw flash last year, I just want to see more consistency in his control. Young, aggressively promoted the last 2 years and a rookie seeing his first ML action. Not surprising he doesn't look finished yet.

Can't remember who we played, but there was a 4 IP performance when he looked almost dominate for the first 3 innings before seeing his numbers inflate the 4th inning as he took one for the team. You could see the potential there.
    • SwainZag and adorduan like this

 

The rules have changed for this kind of movement and that is going to have a big impact on the rotation of young players 

Didn't realize the rule change, which makes depending on 3 rookies even worse.

    • mikelink45 likes this

Nice to see a young Twins pitcher come up with 4 pitches, recent years everyone seems to have only 2 somehow and a 3rd they only throw 5% of the time. Thorpe has a shot as a back of the rotation starter if he can refine his command. Otherwise maybe his fastball can play up a bit in relief. He'll be in the mix once the season starts, but I think Smeltzer and Dobnak are the favs, they seemed the most likely to give the team innings in their starts. 

This is kind of our biggest fear coming true isn't it?The FO having so much confidence in their ability to develop pitching that they roll with one or more of Thorpe/Smeltzer/Dobnak in the rotation. 

I could be completely wrong, but Thorpe just seems to pass the eyeball test better than Smeltzer or Dobnak as anything more than a spot starter.Don't think any of them are game-changers though.

If I had to bet, I'd say the FO is hedging bets and will roll out Berrios, Odo, Pineda, Bailey, Smeltzer, Dobnak, Thorpe for 3 months and then look to make a move at the deadline if needed.

I'd be pleasantly shocked if a significant trade (Gray, Boyd, Archer, etc.) is made before Opening Day.


Similar Articles


by Cody Christie , 29 Jun 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 23 Jun 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 17 Jun 2020
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 07 Apr 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 22 Mar 2020
Photo