Daily Prospect Profile: Previewing Aaron Thompson

Last week I did a Daily Prospect Profile on Aaron Thompson, after a successful outing in AAA.  I’ve seen Thompson twice this year, both with Altoona, and had this to say about his performance and future:

I saw Thompson twice early in the season with Altoona.  His former 90-91 MPH fastball that touched 93 was gone.  Instead his top speed was in the 89-90 MPH range.  Thompson wasn’t as bad as his numbers suggested in the two starts I saw (10 IP, 4 ER, 13 H, 10:3 K/BB ratio).  In the first outing he started off with five shutout innings, before falling apart in the sixth.  In the second outing he only ran in to trouble in the third inning due to poor defense.  But I wouldn’t say Thompson was dominant in either outing.  His upside looks more like a middle reliever in the Tony Watson mold, although I would rate Watson higher due to his success in AA, and his ability to work in the low-90s with his fastball.  However, I’d doubt that upside will be seen with the Pirates, as Thompson is down on the depth charts as far as left handers go, falling behind Watson, Justin Wilson, and Daniel Moskos in the upper levels.

Thompson is expected to get the call to start tonight for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is more due to necessity than his performance in a limited amount of innings at the AAA level.  The Pirates need a starter to make one start, and Thompson was in Pittsburgh yesterday, with a spot open on the 40-man roster.  He’s shown success in a limited amount of innings in AAA, but his high-80s fastball probably won’t lead to much success in a major league spot start.

As I mentioned, I see Thompson more as a reliever in the majors, and I’d probably place him fourth out of the Pirates’ options in AAA and the majors.  Best case scenario, he can be the left handed version of Jeff Karstens, although Karstens is more the exception than the rule when it comes to players having success with an upper 80s velocity (not to mention it’s too early to chalk him up as a success).

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Mike

    Karstens throws harder then Thompson. Thompson is Maholm velocity wise, 88 to 90.

  • Anonymous

    I see a lot of similarities between Thompson and Locke. Both high round draft pick lefties who have had flashes in the minor leagues, but mostly just ok. Mike, velocity is not as important when talking about lefties. If they can hit their spots 90-91 is fine. Certainly cant be worse than Ohlendorf ;)

  • Anonymous

    As a point of reference, Cliff lee occasionally hits 92, but for the most part his fastball is 89-91

    • Ian Rothermund

      I disagree, I think Lee’s fastball is consistently better than that, 91-93, usually hitting 94 at least a few times.  I think he has better heat than he’s given credit for, considering his control and ability to mix his pitches as well as he does.  Usually his slower fastballs tend to be his cutters, which he’ll range from about 85-87.   I mean, this is assuming it isn’t just a ploy by MLB to make us think everyone in baseball is throwing as hard as they are nowadays, and I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Locke has better off-speed stuff than Thompson, and that plays out with the higher strike out rates that Thompson. Not saying he’s going to be a superstar, but I think he is more likely to MLB starter, while Thompson future – if he has one – is more likely middle relief.

    • Ian Rothermund

      Yeah, this is obviously just a move to avoid endangering options by guys like Moskos and Locke.  Great game by Thompson though, nice to see that kind of effort out of a guy in his position.

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