Over the next nine days I will profile the nine players that I encourage you to pay attention to during the '09 season. These players were not included on BBTiA's Top 25 Prospects list, and they all played in the Arizona Rookie League and above during the '08 season. I excluded all players that were not stateside in '08, but I will focus on the Dominican Summer League prospects before the minor league season begins.
The prospects that will be profiled might not be the biggest names, or have the highest ceilings, but they are the players that I think have a chance to take big steps forward during the '09 season. Who is on your list?
On my list so far:
After being drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft out of Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas, Thompson's professional debut in the AZL didn't exactly go as planned. The projectable right-hander was only able to log 8.1 innings of work, but allowed a grotesque 25 hits and 11 earned runs while opposing batters hit .481 against him. Ouch.
Not to worry; Thompson clearly has the stuff to climb the prospect charts in '09. On top of a fastball that was anywhere from the upper-80s to the mid-90s, Thompson is armed with one of the better curveballs in the system. It has legit plus potential and Thompson already shows solid command of it. His change-up, like most young arms, is still quite raw, but showed improvement during the Fall Instructional League.
Honestly, despite being impressed with his curveball, I wasn't that high on Thompson when I charted him in the Fall Instructional League. From my FIL report:
As you can see, Thompson is not afraid to throw his curveball in any count. It's a legit pitch. The three pitches thrown to the sixth and final hitter were just nasty. His fastball, on the other hand, isn't so nasty. In fact, it's very pedestrian. His average fastball velocity was 90 mph, and as I mentioned above, it lacks movement.
Thompson will be an interesting arm to watch in '09. If he can improve his fastball command and encourage some movement, it will form a nice one-two punch with his curveball. I only charted one change-up, so I can't really speak to how effective the pitch is.
Snapshot analysis at its finest! The good news is that Thomspon's fastball continued to tick up as the instructional league progressed and his change-up took a step forward as well. In addition to his pure stuff, Thompson also has a very projectable frame that should allow him to add velocity to his fastball and maintain that velocity deep into games.
In a recent Q&A with respected prospect guru Kevin Goldstein, Thompson was mentioned as a potential breakout candidate for '09: "I really like Matt Thompson -- a local pitcher with a pro body and a really advanced package for his age." That is really high praise coming from Goldstein.
The Rangers won't rush Thompson, making short-season Spokane a likely destination in '09. With his pure stuff, projectable body, and solid make-up, Thompson could have a breakout season pitching in the Spokane rotation.
Thompson's pre-draft scouting video:
[Direct link available here.]
Special announcement: Trip Somers, a very knowledgeable resource on pitching, has finally launched his new website Texas Leaguers. The site will feature Trip's own analysis on pitching, as well as a very detailed glossary of medical terms. I encourage everyone to check it out.