SDI Prospect Rankings: #5 Jake Thompson

Thompson
I had only briefly heard of the name when on July 22nd, the Rangers announced they had traded closer Joakim Soria to Detroit for prospects Corey Knebel and one Jacob Keith Thompson. Most people expected Soria to be traded. The team was decimated by injury, and was out of the race. They had no real need for a closer if they weren’t getting many wins. However, Soria did have an option for 2015, so it was not a foregone conclusion. I imagine when JD and company floated him to Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, he must have gotten a little desperate for bullpen help with Joe Nathan failing so badly. With the Detroit pen in shambles, Dombrowski decided to give up his two best pitching prospects to acquire Soria. Texas fans were already celebrating the seemingly big time heist that this trade presents itself to be. I think most of Twitter fell in love when they saw Jake tweet “I’m coming home!” shortly after. This is a Texas boy, and we all know Texans love them some Texas born athletes. Shutdown Inning’s number 5 prospect should have you more excited than the first bite into a brand new Whataburger sandwich.
Growing up in Rockwall, Texas, Jake was naturally a big time Rangers fan. Even as a member of the Tigers organization, he would still be watching games in his room and checking up on them constantly, much to the chagrin of his Lake Erie teammates. He just couldn’t give em’ up that easy. His favorite player you may ask? Who do you think? Of course, it’s Michael Young. He reveled in the way Young exhibited leadership and embodied professionalism as ‘MY’ led the way for a decade with the type of longevity Jake longs to have for his career. Even during his own games, Jake emulates the lack of emotion that MY is oh so famous for.

Jake attended Heath High School in Rockwall and was simply dominant at the high school level. In his senior year, he posted a 0.73 ERA in over 95 innings with a whopping 165 strikeouts. The big man also slugged 10 homers and hit over .400 playing both corner infield positions too. Best player on his high school team. Go figure. Thompson committed to TCU, but ultimately when the Tigers drafted him 91st overall in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, he signed with them to begin his dream of playing professional baseball. Though it wasn’t the Rangers, it was still an MLB team that wanted him.

I got my first chance to see Jake pitch in August of last year, and that day Jake had everything working for him. He came on in relief that day of rehabbing Derek Holland, working four innings and striking out eight Drillers. He walked only one and gave up three hits. The pitch that all the scouts came to see was his sensual slider, and it is as sharp as a razor blade. Hearing said scouts get antsy and excited as he punched out batter after batter with his vicious slider just had me super giddy. It’s a potential plus-plus pitch that most see as anywhere from a 60-70 future grade. Certainly the slider is his bread and butter out pitch that will get many righties chasing away. It sits in the mid-80s and just dances to the plate. Plenty of late movement and two-plane break that as he gains even more command, should become a feared weapon at his disposal. Jake also possesses a curve ball, but the slider is the preferred weapon.

The other part of his foundation is his low to mid 90s fastball. He throws both the four-seam and two-seam variety that he mixes up with a sort of sinker as well. The two-seamer is what he will go with for ground balls, and since he’s 6’4 and 235 pounds, it gets plenty of downhill plane that allows him to work low in the zone and generate weaker contact. The pitch is still a work in progress as he refines and gets better command of the pitches. He’s able to crank it up to 95 or 96 when need be and still have the sharp downward break.

Most young pitchers have other off speed pitches that they don’t rely or use much since they have never needed too, but Jake possesses a changeup. The cambio is one of the keys to him being an effective starting pitcher in the big leagues. The change has got some run and arm side fade. Generally sits in the 80 to 82 range. Could be a major league average pitch, which is good enough for me. This will likely be his assignment this year, to make this a pitch he can use and trust more during the course of his start.

Jake repeats his delivery fairly well, which goes a long way for a starting pitcher. His big strong frame will allow him to work deep into games and be the 200 inning starter that major league clubs need. He works from a ¾ slot angle and has excellent tilt and has as much torque as a Chevy Silverado. While Jake doesn’t have as good mechanics as say LuLu Ortiz, there is plenty to like about what he does with his motion.

During his two seasons with Detroit, Thompson pitched in 42 games starting 41 of them. He threw over 205 innings and owned a sparkling 2.93 ERA. He had 208 strikeouts and 71 walks. Another big note was his ability to keep the ball in the yard allowing only 8 homers throughout his time. In his six Frisco appearances, Jake saw his strikeout percentage go up even more. His K/9 ended up well over 11 in his 35 plus innings for the Riders. His accomplishments and talent had him chosen to represent Detroit as one of their two representatives in the 2014 All Star Futures game. He appeared in that game and struck out Domingo Santana and Steven Moya, actually earning the W for his USA squad. At that game, he met up with future slugger Joey Gallo and along with their time at high school showcases became friends. It was Gallo who welcomed and helped him adjust in the clubhouse with his new teammates. If you were looking for another awesome thing Joey does, this is an item to add to the growing list.

It is my guess that Jake starts out in the Frisco rotation in 2015 where he likely should stay most of the year. If he impresses enough then he could head down to Round Rock to finish the year like Luke Jackson did in 2014. I don’t feel the 21 year old will see time for Texas this season barring more catastrophes. He still needs more seasoning and refinement of his stuff. However, it would not surprise me at all if he breaks camp and makes the staff out of spring training of 2016. The slider is legit. The size is legit. Jake Thompson is legit. He checks in at number 47 on Baseball Prospectus’ 2015 Top 101 list. Baseball America tabs him as the Rangers’ 2nd best prospect behind Gallo. I will be at several of his starts this year at the Dr Pepper Ballpark, and hope I get the chance to meet and talk to him a little before watching him mow down his opponent. If you, the reader, knows what’s good for you, then you will do the same.

Austin Dietz
I'm just a local Dallas kid that enjoys baseball, craft beer, and using my best hitter second. I'm a co-host of the 20 Grade Podcast.

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