Two Changes That Can Unlock Lewis Thorpe’s Full Potential
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsAs 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.
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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