Look around the Padres' minor league system and you will find the talent bereft at one particular position. They have tried to acquire talent but have been unable to adequately pick the players that would give them depth. The position is left-handed pitchers and the only name on the ledger with a bright future at this time is Sean Thompson.
Thompson went from a 21-year old kid with solid stuff to a team leader when he left Eugene and joined the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2004. From early in the season, Thompson had set a goal not only for himself but also his teammates.
"Sean was pretty outspoken this year about wanting to get to the playoffs," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "He had never been on a playoff team before so he wanted that to happen."
Thompson put the team on his shoulders for much of the year. His 9-6 record in 27 starts doesn't really tell the true mastery of his time on the hill.
In 21 of his starts, Thompson allowed two earned runs or less. In 15 of those he gave up one earned run or less. Take away a two-game stretch where he allowed 16 earned runs in eight innings and his ERA drops from 3.10 to 2.31.
The Colorado native also had an eight game stretch during the season where he tossed five shutouts.
To put it bluntly, the guy was dynamite.
He is one of the rare pitchers who got better as the game went along. He only allowed three runs in the sixth inning or beyond and he kept the opposition to a .180 average with men in scoring position.
Ironically, Thompson was the only pitcher to begin the year with the Wizards and end the year with the team.
"The guy had a great year," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "We left him there because we really wanted to see him command his fastball well. He has a plus curveball, a plus change. We felt he would be best served by having a full year there."
"He struck out a lot of guys," Byrom noted, referring to his 9.55 strikeouts per nine inngs pitched. "He has a good curveball, good fastball, wild in the strike zone a little more than he wants and if that gets better – if he can stay focused and have more good outings where the ball is down in the strike zone and the curveball is working, especially that he throws from that part of the body, he has a huge ceiling. The sky is the limit for him."
The one problem area for Thompson was his walk totals. He only had five games where he did not walk a single batter and he had five outings where he issued free passes to five or more batters in the same game.
Thompson is the first to admit that he had to put in extra work because of his propensity for base on balls. It wasn't something he enjoyed, joking he couldn't hang himself after one five walk performance earlier in the year.
Regardless of the walks, Thompson dominated every other category. He buckled down with men on and did not issue a single hit with the bases loaded – usually a situation in which hitter's thrive.
The only other oddity was that he limited righties to a worse batting average than he did lefties.
"He did an outstanding job and one that we are definitely proud," Waller said. "We are looking for some good things from Sean in the future."
"He definitely has the stuff to advance," Byrom concurred. "And he is a lefty."
Scouts say that Thompson has the best curveball of any Padre prospect and when it is one, look out. As he ascends the ladder, he must gain control over his fastball and cut down on his walk totals. If he can remain wild down, the walks will turn into ground ball outs. There is little holding him back from being a future Major Leaguer.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Scouting Padres Prospect Sean Thompson
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