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Moving On Up: Jake Thompson

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Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

On Thursday night, Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice tweeted that Jake Thompson would be making his Major League debut on Saturday against the Padres. The 22-year-old right-handed pitcher was a consensus top-100 prospect headed into the season, and has been quite good at Triple-A, pitching to the following line: 129.2 IP, 105 H, 37 BB, 87 K, 2.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIP. Here is what I wrote about Thompson on our Phillies top ten prospects list:

Jake Thompson has almost everything that you could ask for from a top of the rotation starter - workhorse build, above-average fastball, swing and miss slider (a legitimate plus-plus pitch), and the ability to hold his stuff late into games. 'Almost' is the key modifier, however, as he has yet to show consistency with his change-up, which can mitigate his effectiveness against lefties (they hit .283/.359/.417 against him in 2015). Thompson's change-up was a bit better this year, leading Baseball Prospectus to rank him 30th on their midseason list, and going so far as calling the pitch above-average. Even with a bit of pragmatism, Thompson profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter that can eat innings and rack up strikeouts.

Thompson’s stock has remained largely the same this season, as he was ranked 30th, 36th, 62nd, and 70th on the midseason prospect lists of our staff, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com, respectively. His season to date has cemented the belief that he is a high-floor prospect, due to his ability to eat innings, limit hard contact, and limit walks, but the dip in strikeouts (a career-worst 6.0 K/9) suggests a limited ceiling overall. There has long been debate as to whether Thompson's slider is a legitimate swing and miss offering, as it has all the makings of one with upper-80s velocity and a sharp break. The strikeouts simply haven’t been there; though, he does generate weak contact with the pitch fairly often.

The most important development of this season may well be Thompson’s dominance against LHH, holding them to a career-best (by far) .199/.238/.257 slash line. His inconsistent change-up and reliance on his slider have long made him susceptible to opposite handed batters, but the scouting reports and numbers suggest that he has made great strides with both his change-up and his curveball. If Thompson can keep lefties off-balance, he will have a much better chance of being the hoss mid-rotation starter that I believe he can be.

As for the next two months, it seems likely that he will be in the rotation for good. Aaron Nola was just placed on the DL, and there are rumblings that he may be done for the season. The Phillies have no reason to rush Nola back, and every reason to give Thompson an opportunity to finish up his impressive season in the Majors. It is also worth noting that Vince Velasquez has nearly doubled his IP total from 2015, so the team will be monitoring his workload going forward, as well.

For fantasy purposes, Thompson is an intriguing option. He will be a regular in the rotation for the next eight weeks, and has the tools to contribute in most every category. His ability to pick up strikeouts against MLB hitters will dictate just how valuable he can be, as it is far more difficult to rely on weak contact at the highest level.