What’s Next for Lewis Thorpe?
Image courtesy of © Jon Durr - USA TODAY SportsThree possibilities come to mind, with the first seeming the most likely, so we’ll start there. In this scenario, Thorpe begins the season starting in AAA Rochester where he provides rotational depth for the Twins. Although certainly disappointing for Thorpe, it’s not as if he has nothing left to prove in the minors. He showed flashes in his first stint with the Twins last season, with a 25% K-rate and 3.47 FIP, but he only got two starts in his 12 appearances and finished with just 27.2 IP and a 6.18 ERA (though to be fair, he was really hurt by a .438 BABIP). In AAA he got even more strikeouts (29.5%) and his walk rate was better (6.2% vs. 8.1% in MLB) but his ERA was 4.58 (3.72 FIP). There’s a lot to like in Thorpe, but he hasn’t exactly forced his way into the rotation.
Some extra seasoning in AAA wouldn’t be the worst thing for Thorpe. It’s all to easy to forget that Thorpe is still just 24-years-old and missed two full years of development due to Tommy John and a bad case of mono. However, with an already-full MLB rotation that has yet to take on Rich Hill and Michael Pineda, Thorpe’s chances of cracking the rotation at any point in a shortened 2020 season looks a bit bleak.
This brings us to our second option, which would be using Thorpe as a reliever. He undoubtably views himself as a starter and will likely begin the season in that role at AAA, but should a bullpen need arise at the MLB level (as it surely will), Thorpe makes a lot of sense. First off, he already served in that capacity for the MLB club in 2019, so it’s not exactly uncharted territory. Thorpe also throws left-handed, and Taylor Rogers is currently the only lefty likely to begin the season in the pen (though Tyler Clippard has reverse-splits). As a reliever, Thorpe could scrap his curve and changeup and rely on his fastball, which in shorter outings could see a bump in it’s 91.2 mph average velocity, and his best pitch, the slider (44.6% whiff rate in 2019). One doesn’t have to squint too hard to see a potential late-inning weapon in Lewis Thorpe.
The final option is that the Twins could look to trade Thorpe. As counterintuitive as trading away young pitching depth seems for a team like the Twins, it could make sense in Thorpe’s case. The MLB rotation will likely already have more starting pitchers than they know what to do with once Hill and Pineda return, and there’s the possibility of Minnesota obtaining an ace around the trade deadline. Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic will begin the season in AA and both rank ahead of Thorpe in prospect rankings. The farm system also includes an interesting quartet of college draft picks who could move quickly. I’m not on Twitter, but based on some of the remarks I’ve seen in the comments section, Thorpe wasn’t exactly thrilled with the demotion and may even welcome a trade (pure speculation on my part).
The 2021 season is a long way off, but Minnesota will presumably still have Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Michael Pineda in the rotation. That doesn’t even account for the possibility of adding at least one starter in a trade (which Thorpe could well be a part of) or free agency (or Randy Dobnak) and with the quality and quantity of pitching prospects currently in the system, pitching for another organization may be in Thorpe’s best interest. And it’s not as if there aren’t teams out there starved for starting pitching. It’s just nice that it’s not us for a change.
What are your thoughts on Thorpe? Do you see a way into Minnesota’s rotation or is the bullpen a better fit? Or would you be down with trading the man from ‘the land Down Under’?
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