Minnesota Twins Scouting Report on LHP Lewis Thorpe
Minnesota Twins lefty prospect Lewis Thorpe returned in 2017 from two seasons away. How did he do?
The Minnesota Twins signed Lewis Thorpe in July of 2012 out of Australia for a $500K bonus.
Thorpe made his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, making 12 appearances (8 starts), with a 2.05 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 6/64 BB/K ratio over 44 innings. That impressive debut got him ranked #101 by Baseball Prospectus in their top 101 prospects list in the offseason between 2013 and 2014.
In 2014, Thorpe moved up to Cedar Rapids as an 18 year-old, and he didn’t look overmatched at all in the jump up to full-season ball at such a young age after some time in extended spring. He made 16 starts, throwing 71 2/3 innings, allowing a 3.52 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, with a 36/80 BB/K ratio. His solid (albeit not spectacular) performance earned him the #91 ranking with Baseball Prospectus after the 2014 season.
Thorpe came into 2015 spring training with plenty of hope for his first full season of innings, but his elbow issues in the spring were diagnosed as a torn UCL, and he had to have Tommy John surgery at the end of spring training. When he was hoping to return in 2016, Thorpe was stricken down with a nasty bout with mono, leading to the Twins shutting him down for the rest of the regular season. He did throw at instructs, but he obviously was out of condition due to the illness, and the Twins chose to allow him the winter to get healthy and come back strong this spring.
He certainly did that, while his innings were managed to some degree, Thorpe made 17 appearances and 16 starts between high-A Fort Myers and AA Chattanooga. He threw 83 innings with a 2.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 33/91 BB/K ratio.
He was ranked the #8 overall prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization in Puckett’s Pond top 100 prospects last week.
Size – Thorpe is listed at 6’1″ and 160 pounds, but that’s almost certainly his size at signing. He’s still at or near that 6’1″ height, perhaps a hair taller, but he’s filled out to where I’d be comfortable saying he’s between 175-185 pounds, but without “bad” weight.
Delivery – Thorpe has an easy step back into his delivery, holding his hands belt-high and using his knee lift to generate arm movement up and into his delivery, generating a very fluid delivery. He generates good square in his shoulders as he comes to the plate, getting tremendous snap through his hips and shoulders to bring his arm through, with an arm slot in a fairly traditional 3/4 slot, but holding his midpoint of his chest perpendicular to the plate well until he snaps his shoulders toward home, giving his traditional arm slot a tick of deception due to the delay in truly seeing the ball come through.
What is notable in his stretch delivery is that he alters his leg lift at times from a true knee lift to a slide step to keep hitters honest, but either way, he opens his delivery offset in his feet, so his knee is already a hair toward its “cock” point in the delivery, and his shoulders are torqued back from his opening set in his stretch delivery, allowing for the altered leg lift to work. I only noted a handful of slide steps in the 6 games I viewed from Thorpe for this review.
Control (50) – Thorpe’s control was in and out at times this season, but that is completely understandable coming back from Tommy John and from the absence he had. In his time before he was injured, Thorpe showed command ahead of his control, hitting his spots, but sometimes seeing a ball trail just off the strike zone, missing a call.
When he struggled to control this season, he began to “aim”, and his arm slot would dip a touch, exposing the ball to the hitter for a longer period of time, allowing hitters to be able to get a better view on his pitch.
Fastball (60) – Thorpe’s fastball regained its velocity this season, sitting in the 90-94 range overall, but in 4 of the 6 games, that range was even tighter, sitting 91-93 all game. The top I saw him touch on a stadium gun was 97, though in reads from others around that I trust, 96 is typically the top you get from Thorpe.
The fastball was affected fairly heavy by how in control of his stuff Thorpe was that day. It seemed that on days that he was really locating well, his fastball had nice late movement that kept it off barrels, but when he was having an off day, he seemed to “aim” the pitch, flattening it out. He has the ability to generate a tick higher grade on the fastball with added movement.
Change Up (60) – Most impressive to me in his return to the mound was Thorpe’s feel for his changeup. He’d had an above-average change previously, but he really showed good feel for arm deception on the pitch, and his movement on his change seemed to indicate multiple grips on the pitch, which is an excellent way to utilize an already quality pitch. When he was locating well and getting good fastball movement, his change would generate swing and miss, when he was missing with the fastball, the change seemed to be his go-to pitch to generate weak fly-outs.
Slider (50) – Recovering from his time away was difficult for Thorpe certainly, and it was notable in his two breaking pitches. Previously, his slider was behind his curveball, but the two pitches seemed to blend together often early in the season. He did well to separate them more as the year went on.
The slider is more of an offering with tight break that runs around 83-84. Thorpe seemed to tinker with a slider that is becoming popular, the cutter/slider hybrid pitch, which was particularly effective with his ability to keep his arm slot consistent. He really did not throw enough of them to give a good overview on the pitch, though.
Curveball (50) – While the end of the season saw his slider and curve split more, Thorpe still struggled to find a consistent feel of his curve on the season. He has a very impressive curve that works from 78-81 with a couple planes of break that seems to just fall off the earth when it’s really going well, but he often got single plane break or saw the pitch dive in the ground.
When it’s on, the curve is a fringe-plus pitch, and Adam Wainwright mentioned that recovery from Tommy John typically is to see velocity return in year 1 and feel for control/command in year 2. I would expect to see the curve to take a step forward, but the grade is where it sits currently.
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MLB Player Comp
I’m sure that Thad Levine saw a familiar approach when he watched Thorpe for the first time off the mound. As a big fan of his pitching, I had Martin Perez on a dynasty fantasy baseball league team many years before he got to the major leagues. Thorpe has a lot in common with the Ranger lefty when Perez was a highly-thought-of prospect in the Rangers organization (ranking in the top 20 with Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus after the 2009 season).
Perez had a load of injury stuff take down what he was coming up as far as the effectiveness of his breaking stuff, but his fastball and change combo currently are definitely akin to what Thorpe offers, and the breaking stuff in the minors was above average and played up well. He’s really seen his change become his only positive value pitch (though it does grade as one of the best in the league, so there is that…).
Thorpe has the ability to work with the breakers never developing into a back-rotation guy like Perez has done, but he could be much, much more.
Next: Twins organization minors player/pitcher of the year announced
Thorpe will likely open 2018 at the AA level with Chattanooga. He’s still just 22 in 2018, so he’ll certainly not be “old” for his level, but it’d not be a surprise if he jumped up a level to AAA and even getting a major league look if he can get the feel on his breaking pitches back next season. The ceiling for Thorpe is certainly one of the more intriguing of any Twins left-handed minor leaguer.