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GAME THREAD 4/13/2021: Twins vs. Red Sox, 1:10 CDT

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Two Changes That Can Unlock Lewis Thorpe’s Full Potential

Last season was an unmitigated disaster for Lewis Thorpe. Now it’s time to unlock the Australian lefty as he enters camp with a new outlook and focus for the 2021 campaign.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
As a teenager, Lewis Thorpe seemed like he was on a path to being a dominant big-league starter. For multiple offseasons, he was considered a top-100 prospect and he posted some dominating numbers in the minor’s lower levels. Clearly, plenty can happen over the course of pitcher’s professional career as Thorpe missed multiple seasons and he has yet to put it all together at baseball’s highest level.

Many fans are aware of what Thorpe’s situation from a season ago. He left spring training for two weeks as he dealt with some personal matters. He had an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation but missing that much time meant he was among the team’s first group sent over to the minor league side of camp. It had to be frustrating for all parties involved.

As the season started, Thorpe was given a second chance, but his results on the field suffered. His fastball velocity dipped from 91.2 mph in 2019 to 89.7 mph in 2020. His Whiff % was in the 14th percentile and his K % was in the third percentile. His strikeouts per nine dropped from 10.1 in 2019 to 5.5 in 2020. There was little to get excited about.

This spring something is different with Thorpe. He spent the winter working on his physical and mental health to prove he belongs in the Twins long-term plans. On the physical side, he added almost 30 pounds this off-season and nearly all of it is muscle. This has helped his fastball to tick back up to 93 mph and his head is where it needs to be.

"My head wasn't clear, and this year, in the offseason, I committed myself to working out and working on my arm action and getting strength back in my legs," Thorpe said. "It's all coming along really nicely."

This season is going to be a make-it or break-it year for Thorpe and there are some subtle changes he can make to improve his performance. One item he can focus on adjusting is the release point of his curveball. He throws this pitch less than his other pitches but there is a clear difference in his release point as he tends to release it 2.4 inches higher than his other pitches.
Attached Image: Thorpe Curveball Release.JPG
He’s allowed an average exit velocity of 85.5 mph, which is over 2 mph lower than the league average. However, Thorpe has allowed 12% of his balls in play to be barrels. Leave average barrel percentage is 7%. Throughout his minor league career, Thorpe has been able to avoid barrels because of his strong strikeout totals. This spring there have already been some positive signs with his ability to strikeout batters and fans can hope this is a second change that translates to the regular season.

"Just pounded the zone, trusted my stuff and it went well," Thorpe said after this weekend’s start. "I got the swings and misses that I wanted. The offspeed was down in the zone and the fastball was up, so it worked out pretty good."

If things continue to work out pretty well, the rest of the AL Central might need to be prepared for Lewis Thorpe’s arrival. He's also waiting an arbitrator's decision on if he will get a fourth option year and that could go a long way to deciding his future in Minnesota.

What are your expectations for Thorpe this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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7 Comments

I'm a sucker as a fan for LH pitchers and the various prosoects that have been signed from Down Under. So no big surprise I've been following Thorpe closely for years and rooting for him. I saw glimpses of his potential late in 2019 and was excited for him in 2020. So you can imagine my disappointment when things unfolded as they did.

Because of how last season went, I think a lot of people forget how good he looked before injury and illness wiped out 2 full seasons, and just how good he looked when he came back. We may never know the ful story of what happened to him last year, and maybe it doesn't matter. What DOES matter is how he got his head and body RIGHT again. Did he really gain 30lbs? I doubt it. I believe he re-gained weight he lost and then packed on a little more muscle with his new-found dedication. Regardless, good for him!

I really hope he gets tbat 4th option year. Not just for the Twins and roster flexibility, but because it allows him a more linear progression of development in 2021 to perform and be sent back and brought back again if and when he just needs a re-fresher.

A 4th option is a blessing for both team and player.
    • Dman, MN_ExPat and rdehring like this

Thorpe has a lot to prove, that’s for sure. If I remember correctly, he didn’t respond in the most mature way when he was cut last spring. It’s good to hear that he seems to have taken stock and figured some things out.

Going purely on what I’ve seen of his performance (all at the MLB level), he hasn’t looked very impressive. His fastball velocity wasn’t great to begin with, so a few lost ticks last year were alarming. It’s good to see that his velocity has seemingly improved, albeit over I think one spring inning. FWIW, my understanding is that he topped out at 93 that day and mostly sat at about 90. We’ll see if it holds up or improves further. What has alarmed me more is his inability to spot the fastball. Guy can overcome moderate command issues if they’re throwing serious heat. Much harder to get over that if you’re around 90. Personally, I don’t have a lot of hope for Thorpe, but I’d be happy to be wrong.

 

Edit: I missed that Thorpe had another pitching appearance. As of 3/9, he has tossed 3.0 innings with 5 strikeouts.

 

I really hope he gets tbat 4th option year. Not just for the Twins and roster flexibility, but because it allows him a more linear progression of development in 2021 to perform and be sent back and brought back again if and when he just needs a re-fresher.

A 4th option is a blessing for both team and player.

 

Totally agree with you that a 4th option helps the player in this situation.Without the 4th option the Twins would likely need to use him in the pen as the rotation is filled out right now.They could make him a long man and try and keep him stretched out but it generally isn't the same as being in a routine ready to go every 5th day.I think the league does him a dis-service if they don't allow him to have a 4th option year.

 

If you look at the spirit of the option rule it is to force teams to play good players, players that are good enough to play on another team instead of just stockpiling them on the 40 man.In this case though the Twins will have no plans to drop him from the 26 man and allow him to move to another team so that point is moot.He will get payed more being on the 26 man short term but his development as a starter could be set back as well.

 

Also he did miss a lot of development time early on with his arm and sickness not to mention the short year last year. Honesty I think he cracks the 26 man at some point this year as guys get injured or need time off.He just needs to prove that he belongs first.Having the option to go up and down also should help his development as he can be integrated in more favorable circumstances.I think that without the 4th year option he will need to be deployed from the pen which would mess with his starter routine as well and possibly earnings later on as starters are more valuable than relievers.

 

Personally I think there is a good case for a 4th year option benefiting the player and the team in this situation.

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan, wabene and 1 other like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Mar 09 2021 08:26 AM

I missed something, wasn't the 4th option already decided or did I misread something?

It was reported that he got a 4th option, then the report changed to that option being arbitrated. We'll see.
    • Dman likes this
I agree Doc! I thought he was already granted the 4th year. Regardless, Thorpe will be going to milwaukee for opening day. I watched some video of his last outing. He looks really bulky compared to 2020.

Will agree with the above comments that getting the 4th year option is huge, HUGE, for Thorpe.

 

If the Twins have the luxury of moving him between St. Paul and the Twins, when needed, it will be a big plus for his development. Should put him in great shape to compete for one of the five starter spots in 2022.

 

However, all of this will be meaningless should Thorpe continue pitching like he has throughout spring training and force the Twins to include him on the opening day roster. For many reasons, the Twins very well may have six starters on a 14-man pitching staff.No reason to believe Thorpe can't/won't be one of them.


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