For the past two Septembers, there's been little to get excited about on the Twins front, and this September hasn't been that different as the only thing the Twins have clinched is a third consecutive 90-loss season. Such occurrences lead to looking for silver linings, and the Twins got one today when Baseball America released its Top 20 Gulf Coast Leagues prospect list, featuring 17-year-old Twins hurler Lewis Thorpe in the No. 7 spot (Jesse also listed Thorpe on his list of 10 unranked Twins pitching prospects to pay attention to). An excerpt from BA's write-up of Thorpe:
When Thorpe signed, he sat at 86-88 mph and touched 91 with long arms, but he’s grown an inch and added 55 pounds, which helped his fastball tick upward. He pitched at 88-93 mph in the GCL, then in Taiwan he touched 95. Even when he was throwing in the high-80s, Thorpe’s fastball was a swing-and-miss pitch because the ball explodes out of his hand and looks quicker than it is with sneaky late action. His changeup, a potential plus pitch, is his most polished offspeed offering with sink and fade.
The big eye-opener, for me anyway, was to see that Thorpe packed on 55 pounds from age 16 to 17. Reports at the time of his signing described him as projectable, with most predicting that velocity will come, and filling out that much (he also grew an inch) will certainly do that to a young kid. BA goes on to write that in addition to size and velocity, Thorpe's arsenal of breaking pitches has also improved, and his once-questionable command has now become a positive. Thorpe averaged just 1.2 walks per nine innings pitched in the GCL this season.
Overall, his stats look pretty damn impressive: 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA, 64 strikeouts and just six walks in 44 innings pitched. He allowed only two home runs. Opponents batted just .203/.238/.316 against him, and lefties went a ridiculous 3-for-42 against him, totaling a .071/.093/.119 batting line that our own Andrew Bryz-Gornia could probably muster over the course of a season (I won't give myself that much credit).
A couple of things about Thorpe's season and ranking:
- The average hitter in the GCL was 19.5 years old this season. Thorpe won't turn 18 until November, so he was doing most of his damage against hitters that were, on average, two years older than he is. Not bad.
- Thorpe is the seventh-best prospect in the league, but he's the second-best pitcher. Only Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito (No. 2 overall) is ahead of him in terms of pitchers.
- Thorpe ranked ahead of 2013 first-rounders Rob Kaminsky (LHP, Cardinals) and Nick Ciuffo (C, Rays) -- each of whom was a high schooler that was touted as one of the better available players in the 2013 draft. Kaminsky, the No. 28 pick in the draft, signed for about $1.8MM. Ciuffo, drafted 21st by the Rays, signed for just under $2MM. The Twins signed Thorpe for $500K last July.
Obviously, Thorpe is a long ways away, and big numbers from the GCL don't mean that a prospect will carry them over to higher levels and against better competition. However, sometimes those numbers do translate, as we've seen with Oswaldo Arcia. J.O. Berrios is another player who posted big numbers in the GCL and looked strong at the next level.
As fans, we never want 17-year-old prospects to be the subject of our September focus, but it's better to continually hear about the strong minor league system the Twins are building than it is to be staring a 90-loss season in the face and knowing that there's little to no hope on the horizon as many other fanbases routinely have to do.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve