Weight: 235 lb
DOB: 1/31/94 (19 years old)
Fastball: Sits in the low 90's with heavy sink. Needs to learn fastball command, but that is common for a 19 year old pitcher. Plus pitch if he refines the command.
Slider: Wipeout pitch that should allow him to sustain a high strikeout rate throughout his career. Tends to fall in love with this pitch and it might be hindering the development of another secondary pitch. Plus pitch at the moment.
Changeup: Seems to have good feel for the changeup despite rarely throwing it prior to this season. This pitch needs to development to secure his future as a starter. Average potential that should come as he continues to throw it.
Curveball: A new pitch that Thompson started throwing this spring. Not doing much to throw off hitters at the moment, but a slower breaking pitch could be important as he climbs through the system and needs more then raw stuff to get a batter out. Average potential with quite a ways to go.
2013 Season Review
The Tigers kept a tight leash on Jake Thompson's workload so this past season had a neutral impact on his prospect status. He logged only 83.1 IP and did not often go beyond 5 innings in a given start. Despite the training wheels, some vital strides were made in Thompson's development such as gaining feel for a changeup. There was never a need for Thompson to throw his changeup prior to this season, so it was crucial that he develop this third pitch.
Thompson's impressive strikeout numbers maintained in his jump to full-season ball as he struck out 24.6% of batters faced. He walked a few too many batters for my liking, but given that he was working on developing two new pitches and held back from throwing his best pitch, some command issues might be expected. The impressive numbers jump out at you even more when you consider he was only 19 years old this season in a league with mostly 21-23 year olds.
While Thompson has the build of a future innings eater, it isn't difficult to imagine a scenario where he ends up in the bullpen: curveball and changeup don't develop or he refuses to work off of his fastball. That makes 2014 an important year for Jake Thompson as he takes another step towards his ultimate potential of a number 3 starter. He might come back to West Michigan and repeat A-ball or if the Tigers choose to be aggressive, could move him to Hi-A. It'll be interesting to see if the Tigers really let Thompson fly and go deeper into games. Part of his risk profile is that we don't know how hitters will react after seeing Thompson 2 and 3 times through the order on a consistent basis. A solid 2014 could put Thompson on the back-end of Top 100 lists for 2015.
ETA and Future Fantasy Value
There is a long road to go for Jake Thompson to realize his potential, and I put his ETA sometime around 2016. I see a back-end rotation innings eater with solid strikeout numbers and multiple double-digit win seasons. If the changeup and curveball develop better than expected there is upside for more, as well as a small likelihood of seeing Thompson in the bullpen as a high-leverage reliever. Because he will very likely be able to handle a full-season's workload as a starter, I believe Detroit will give him every chance to fill that role. While he probably ends up as a streamer in shallow leagues, Thompson is definitely worth a stash in deeper leagues given his upside of a strikeout hurling workhorse.