The Houston Astros pick first in the 2013 Rule 5 draft on Thursday, and according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, they have narrowed their list to ten players for that first choice. One of those players, according to Drellich, is Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Zack Thornton.
The Pirates acquired Thornton last December in a trade that sent Chris Resop to the Oakland Athletics. He started his season in Bradenton, but quickly moved up to Altoona after ten dominant appearances. He also spent time with Indianapolis, throwing 25.1 innings total at the level. Between the top three levels, Thornton combined for a 2.63 ERA in 75.1 innings, with a 10.8 K/9 and a 1.4 BB/9.
Thornton doesn’t have the most dominating stuff on paper. His fastball sits 90-91 MPH, and he pairs that with a low 80s changeup and a 77-78 MPH slider. He’s a sinkerball pitcher, with a 61.6% ground ball ratio in 2013.
If he doesn’t get drafted, then Thornton should start the 2014 season in Indianapolis, and could be pitching out of the Pirates’ bullpen by the end of the year as a depth option. It’s not a guarantee that the Astros would draft him, although there is a chance that some other team in need of bullpen help could take him. In my Rule 5 preview a few weeks ago I listed him as the most likely to be drafted from the group of Pirates who were left available.