The Oakland A's announced on Thursday that they had signed former Cleveland Indians and LA Dodgers left-hander Derek Thompson to a minor league contract. Thompson, a talented lefty, has had an injury plagued career to date. The 25-year-old missed both the 2003 and 2006 seasons after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgeries. He also had trouble with his knees early in his career.
Thompson was originally drafted out of Land O' Lakes High School by the Cleveland Indians in the supplemental first round of the 2000 amateur draft. He struggled during his first two years of professional baseball, posting ERAs of 5.82 and 9.75 in 2000 and 2001, respectively. However, he appeared to turn the corner in 2002 at age 21. He played at three levels that season (Rookie, low-A and high-A) and had his ERA under 4.00 at all three levels.
After that strong showing during the 2002 season, Thompson was a surprise Rule 5 selection by the Dodgers. He entered spring training 2003 competing for a 25-man roster spot never having pitched above high-A ball. Thompson injured his elbow that spring and was placed on the 60-day disabled list after he underwent Tommy John surgery. He was declared a free agent at the end of the 2003 season and he re-signed with the Dodgers.
The 2004 season was a successful one for Thompson, who made 22 starts in his return from injury. He pitched for AA-Jacksonville that entire season, going 5-7 with a 3.72 ERA. He allowed 132 hits in 118.2 innings, but he gave up only three homeruns and he struck out 100. The Dodgers sent Thompson back to AA to start the 2005 season and after eight starts where he struck out 43 in 41.2 innings, Thompson was promoted to AAA-Las Vegas. He made four appearances at AAA before being promoted to the big leagues.
Thompson's brief foray in the big leagues was successful, although it ended with injury. He made four appearances for the Dodgers, including three starts. He didn't record a win or a loss, but he had a solid 3.50 ERA over 18 innings of work. Thompson allowed only 16 hits and no homeruns, while walking 10 and striking out 13. He then injured his elbow again and missed the rest of the 2005 season and all of the 2006 campaign.
Before the injuries, Thompson boasted a low-90s fastball with very good command. He has always been a groundball pitcher who did a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark. Thompson was given an invitation to major league spring training camp with his minor league deal.
A's Invite Nine Non-Roster Players To Big League Camp
The A's also announced their non-roster invitee list on Thursday. Nine prospects in the A's system will be joining minor league free agent signings J.J. Furmaniak, Vince Faison, Erasmo Ramirez, Durazo and Thompson at major league camp. The nine A's prospects are: Dallas Braden, Mike Mitchell, Connor Robertson, Kazhito Tadano, John Baker, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Kevin Melillo and Travis Buck.
Catchers Suzuki and Baker will be returning to big league camp for a third straight year. They are expected to share time at AAA-Sacramento next season. Barton will also be making his third straight appearance at big league camp. He could be fighting for a roster spot, although he is expected to begin the year at AAA-Sacramento. Barton, who was the A's top prospect going into the 2006 season, missed most of the year with an elbow injury, but had an impressive showing this winter in the Dominican Winter League. He is viewed as the A's first baseman of the future.
Melillo and Buck will be making their big league training camp debuts. Both are considered top prospects in the A's chain. Melillo, a 2004 draft pick, spent last season in AA-Midland, where he hit 12 homers and led the Texas League in fielding percentage. He is considered the A's top second base prospect. Buck, who was named the A's top prospect at any position by many scouting publications, will be coming off of off-season surgery to correct a sports hernia. Before being injured in July, Buck was leading the minor leagues in doubles. Many expect him to be in the A's outfield by 2008.
Mitchell and Robertson will also be making their first trips to big league camp. Both right-handed relievers had impressive 2006 seasons and later appeared in the Arizona Fall League. Mitchell split his 2006 campaign between A-Stockton and AA-Midland. He later earned a spot in the AFL's "Prospect Showcase" with his impressive performance in the desert. Robertson was Midland's top set-up man in 2006. He has racked up impressive strikeout totals throughout his career and could be a future eighth-inning pitcher for the A's.
Braden was named the A's top minor league pitcher in 2005, but he missed most of the 2006 season with shoulder troubles. He is healthy again and is pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League currently and has a 2.30 ERA in 16.2 innings. He has allowed only 10 hits and has struck out 19. Braden features a screw-ball and an excellent change-up. He has been a starter through much of his minor league career, but the A's might look at him out of the bullpen this spring. This will be his first trip to a big league spring training.
Tadano was acquired at the end of spring training last season by the A's from Cleveland. He was expected to be on the shortlist for call-ups to the big leagues, but he struggled at AAA and eventually missed time with a knee injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster during the season, but cleared waivers and returned to Oakland. Tadano was much more effective after his return from the knee injury. He could be a sleeper candidate to challenge for a bullpen spot if he is healthy. Tadano spent parts of two seasons with the Indians and has a career minor league ERA of 3.62.