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  • TD Top Prospects: #9 Lewis Thorpe

    A surprise top-notch Twins starting pitching prospect? Yes, please. Let's play five questions:

    Who?
    That’s exactly what I said when Lewis Thorpe’s name started popping up on national prospect lists this offseason. Shame on me - we’ve been tracking him here for months.

    But the rest of you are forgiven. Thorpe has only been with the Twins since the middle of last year and was signed as a 16-year-old from Melbourne, Australia. He's only had eight starts in the minors. He wasn’t on many folks' radar going into the season – until the southpaw sprouted into his current 6’2” frame and flashed….

    What?
    …a 92 mph fastball that can be dialed up to 95 at times. That led to 64 K in 44 IP in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, a league in which he was playing as a 17-year-old. Add that he’s left-handed and still growing and you can see why even national evaluators are paying attention.

    Where?
    The next natural step would be Elizabethton in the short-season rookie Appalachian League, which is where top draft pick Kohl Stewart ended his season last year. That would be a fairly conservative approach – but Thorpe would still be younger than Stewart was in that league. And if the Twins are feeling aggressive, he could find himself just a few hours south of the Twin Cities in Cedar Rapids as an 18-year-old.

    When?
    That will be as close as he’ll get to Target Field for a while. Even if he doesn’t stumble at any level, he likely won’t make it to the majors as a starter until 2018. By then, even Ricky Nolasco’s 4-year deal will be finished. Thorpe would hopefully be filling out a rotation chock full of young high-end arms, including Stewart and JO Berrios.

    Why?
    He’s ranked #9 because players with this kind of upside are valuable. Clearly, everyone will feel a lot more comfortable if he starts climbing the minor league ladder – or even had a full season of pitching to evaluate. But a kid Thorpe’s age in the States would likely be entering his senior year in high school, and we would be debating exactly where he would fall in the first round of the MLB draft.

    Like any 17-year-old pitcher, he has a long way to go and the odds are stacked against him. But he’s already surprised us plenty. There's no longer an excuse to not be paying attention.
    This article was originally published in blog: TD Top Prospects: #9 Lewis Thorpe started by John Bonnes
    Comments 40 Comments
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      He could go E-town/CR this year. CR/FM next year. NB in 2016 as a 20-year old. Knocking on MLB door at 21. That feels plenty aggressive to me.
      I decided to check who else has made it to MLB at 21 (or earlier) in the last 20 years.

      Age 19: 6
      Age 20: 40 (2 per season)
      Age 21: 179 (9 per season)

      Even making an appearance in 2017 as a 21-year old would put him in fairly rare territory.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      I could see him spending time in Elizabethton with a call-up to CR as other pitchers there move up. Aside from the reasons pointed out by Brock, I don't think he'd be ready just yet for the full season workload.

      He could go E-town/CR this year. CR/FM next year. NB in 2016 as a 20-year old. Knocking on MLB door at 21. That feels plenty aggressive to me.
      That's very aggressive, and realistic...

      I'm the positive Twins blogger, but I hvae to point out that there have been a lot of young pitchers who have pitched and dominated in the GCL and didn't get to AA... Thorpe certainly appears to have incredible upside, but let's just hope he continues to progress and stay healthy.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      That's very aggressive, and realistic...

      I'm the positive Twins blogger, but I hvae to point out that there have been a lot of young pitchers who have pitched and dominated in the GCL and didn't get to AA... Thorpe certainly appears to have incredible upside, but let's just hope he continues to progress and stay healthy.
      Who brought Debbie Downer to the party?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      Who brought Debbie Downer to the party?
      Irony, thy initials are either D.D. or S.S.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I am Mr. Negative...
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      I could care less what level he is. I will take an 18 year old 6'2 lefty who already sits in the low 90s any day of the week. Those don't grow on trees.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I watched him throw a bullpen today. Pretty impressive for a young kid. His breaking ball has alot of movement. He'll be one to keep an eye on.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I just hate how the Twins drag their feet with these prospects. Obviously, the best approach is to get the best young prospects up to Class A as soon as possible, leave them their for a couple of years and then, once they've proven they're for real, zip them up through high-A, AA, and AAA quickly and get them up to The Show!

      Yours truly,

      A Cedar Rapids Twins fan
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      On the latest talk to contact podcast we were joined by Jim Callis who offered his thoughts on Lewis Thorpe and most of the other top prospects in the Twins organization.

      www.talktocontact.com
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "He could go E-town/CR this year. CR/FM next year. NB in 2016 as a 20-year old. Knocking on MLB door at 21. That feels plenty aggressive to me." I've often wondered if you took Sandy Koufax at his prime and disguised him as a 17 year old how long would it take one of the best pitchers in history in his prime to make it through the system to the big leagues? Dwight Gooden went from 18 year old Class A straight to the big leagues and put up the same terrific numbers in the majors as he did in Class A. I'm not saying Thorpe is Koufax or Gooden but given that all the attributes Seth listed is where he sits right now, why is it a fast track to spend 4 more years in the minors before getting a shot at the bigs?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      I've often wondered if you took Sandy Koufax at his prime and disguised him as a 17 year old how long would it take one of the best pitchers in history in his prime to make it through the system to the big leagues? Dwight Gooden went from 18 year old Class A straight to the big leagues and put up the same terrific numbers in the majors as he did in Class A. I'm not saying Thorpe is Koufax or Gooden but given that all the attributes Seth listed is where he sits right now, why is it a fast track to spend 4 more years in the minors before getting a shot at the bigs?
      Ideally teams want to time a player's MLB arrival to coincide with the start of their 6-7 most productive years. Teams simply won't call a 19-20 year old up and let him get knocked around a little bit for 2-3 years at the MLB level. Those become lost years of productive contractual control as the guy gets expensive sooner.

      If the Twins keep Thorpe on the farm, they could control him until he's 30. If they push him up to the Big Leagues at 19, even if he turns out to be another Koufax, they could lose him just when he's hitting his prime.

      As someone who has been watching MLB ball since the Koufax days, I would also offer an explanation that is nothing more than opinion: I think hitters are just that much better today.

      It's not that pitching hasn't evolved and improved over the last 50 years, too, but it seems to me that hitters are better athletes, using more advanced training methods, work full time almost 12 months a year at their craft and apply more advanced analytical information to their craft. There have also been rule changes that have strongly favored the offense.

      Sure, there were hitters in every era that could be successful today, too. But your average (and even below average) hitters today are, I believe, much better than they were in prior eras.

      Pitching has improved, as well, but it doesn't seem to me like that aspect has improved as much as hitting has.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Jimcrikket, I understand and have often argued the exact same thing in terms of wanting team control. They should be polished when they get up so we have them at their best for the longest period possible. The flip side to your theory that hitters are better than they used to be is my theory that with conditioning and training methods pitchers throw harder than they used to. I remember when 90 mph used to be considered good. Now even guys like Nick Blackburn can touch mid 90's. The result is what seems to me to be a lot more TJ and elbow surgery. Therefore, if a guy like Thorpe can earn his way to the majors and be successful earlier it makes more sense to promote him while his arm is still healthy. I will take effective and a little on the job learning now over loss of a year or two in prime because it seems so few guys stay healthy. Just look at the guys on the Twins who have lost significant time in the last decade. Joe Mays, Milton, Radke, Liriano, Blackburn, Baker, Slowey, Nathan, Pavano, Gibson. I am probably forgetting quite a few. There is something to a bird in hand. Which gets me back to my original question though honestly it was meant more to be rhetorical. How long especially with the Twins would it take to get Koufax to the majors if he started out in the organization at his peak?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      There is one aspect to bringing up a budding star a little early that isn't covered by any of this: it's good advertising to the next generation of player. Say you draft a tough-to-sign high-ceiling high school kid in the 6th round. He's just going to say no thanks if he believes that he'll spend the next 7 years in the minors or whatever, and will go to junior college without even listening to your bonus offer and hope for better draft luck the next June. Ditto for signing young talent from off our shores, if they have any other teams also in the hunt.

      This shouldn't overly drive your strategy of course. But you gotta hold a little hope out there.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      Between Lewis Thorpe, Stephen Gonsalves, and Felix Jorge, not to mention Kohl Stewart, the Twins added a big group of very high upside arms in the last 12 months. Of course, they also added Alex Meyer and Trevor May in the past 14 months, so that is 6 significant arms added in short order..
      Detail, but they signed Felix Jorge out of the Dominican as an IFE on February of 2011 (Smith signing). So 2014 will be his fourth season in the organization.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Mr. Crikket will know more about this, however, I suspect that the Twins may have changed their position on moving young players to low A ball since moving to Cedar Rapids as I understand that the Kernels have 'family hosts' for all of their players. Is that correct Jim? If so, that is different than Beloit where I understand there were only a few. Thus, they may not have problems with sending an 18 year old to the Midwest League.

      With that said, I see them keeping Thorpe in extended spring training for a month, then sending him straight to Cedar Rapids. He hasn't had much time off this winter as he was pitching every weekend for Melbourne until three or four weeks ago. That would give him an extra month before getting into competitive games every fifth or sixth day.

      Based on the type of hitters he successfully faced all winter, there is no reason to send him to ETon. Rather an argument could be made that he is prepared to go straight to Hi-A ball, although I agree that isn't likely.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      There is one aspect to bringing up a budding star a little early that isn't covered by any of this: it's good advertising to the next generation of player. Say you draft a tough-to-sign high-ceiling high school kid in the 6th round. He's just going to say no thanks if he believes that he'll spend the next 7 years in the minors or whatever, and will go to junior college without even listening to your bonus offer and hope for better draft luck the next June. Ditto for signing young talent from off our shores, if they have any other teams also in the hunt.

      This shouldn't overly drive your strategy of course. But you gotta hold a little hope out there.
      Understand your point, but I also see how quickly people give up on prospects that come up and struggle... can you imagine Thorpe coming up in 2015 at age 19, posting a 6 ERA and so many thinking he was a bust?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Understand your point, but I also see how quickly people give up on prospects that come up and struggle... can you imagine Thorpe coming up in 2015 at age 19, posting a 6 ERA and so many thinking he was a bust?
      Guess I'm guilty of a threadjack, if it seemed like I was recommending Thorpe specifically, for a debut quite that soon.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      roger, yes, the Kernels offer host families to all players, including some bi-lingual host parents I'm aware of who opened their homes to several latino players at once. And, unlike some host-parent programs, there's no "room and board" charge to the players. Thorpe, of course, could be more of a challenge. I'm not sure how many host parents speak Australian (rimshot).

      I don't know how much the Twins have changed their approach about moving players to A ball and, if they have, it could have as much to do with Brad Steil taking over as minor league director as it does the location of the team. Tho I have been told the Twins do like being in a city with an airport 15 minutes away rom the balpark instead of having kids fly in to Chicago or Milwaukee and having to figure out how to get to Beloit.

      As a writer and a fan, I'm ok with spreading out the pitching talent this year, with some of it arriving in April and then a couple guys joining in May or June. I assume the Kernels will use a 6-man rotation again this season and with innings limits, injuries and promotions, they go through a lot of starting pitchers.

      I'd like to get a look at Thorpe right away, but if it's a little later, that's OK. Sometimes getting a look at "the new kid" at mid season gives you something fresh to watch.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      A couple of thoughts.

      First in regard to promotions and how soon prospects should get to class A. I would think this should be on an individual basis. There should be no one size fits all. There are all sorts of things that could keep Thorpe from A ball this year. Maturity, innings limits based in part from pitching during the winter, competition(kids slightly older, with somewhat similar ceilings who maybe a bit "ahead" of Thorpe right now), minor injuries, and probably a number of other things. I would like to believe the Twins organization is trying to do what is best for the top prospects while balancing that with what is best for the organization.

      Secondly, about the comments concerning Gooden and Koufax. Both were in the majors at a young age and both had relatively short careers as dominating pitchers, but otherwise they were quite different. Gooden was incredibly effective at a very young age(sort of like Liriano without the TJ). Gooden was even youger than Liriano and was dominant for several years. One has to wonder if the workload at such a young age took a toll on Gooden.

      Koufax was different. When he got to the majors, he was so wild, he just wasn't very effective. Once he harnessed his stuff he was maybe the best pitcher ever, if only for a short period of time. Again workloads in the 60's were a lot different than now.

      How any of that might compare to Thorpe, I don't know. If he is as dominating as Gooden, he won't be in the minors very long. What I think will happen, is that the Twins won't allow his workload to be nearly as high as some other young pitchers received in the past.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      The more I see of this kid, the more impressed I am! He, with health, could be something really special down the line. I hope the line isn't a long one.
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