Scouting Padres' Prospect #9: Sean Thompson

The stereotypical left-handed starter is quirky, strange and, often, out of his mind. Sean Thompson fits that bill to perfection. On the mound, he is full of attitude and that fiery tornado built in a 170-pound body unleashes his fury on the opposition.

It lasted just six games, spanning 33.1 innings. That's the final tally on Sean Thompson's stint in the California League.

In that brief stay in the noted hitters' league, he amassed a 4-1 record and 2.16 ERA. He struck out 45 and walked 13, while holding the opposition to a .210 average. With five of his starts coming at The Diamond, Thompson gave up just four hits in 27 at bats with runners in scoring position.

Promoted to Double-A and the Mobile BayBears, Thompson's run of success ran out. He gave up nine earned runs over his first eight innings of work and struggled with his command.

The lefty from Colorado ended his year with a 4-5 record and a 4.67 ERA, giving up 127 hits in 113.2 innings for a .294 average against. He also allowed 55 walks while striking out 94.

In 12 of his 20 starts with Mobile, Thompson walked three batters or more. And his biggest struggles came early in games, when the opposition hit .357 off him in the first two frames. Uncharacteristically, he allowed lefties to hit .343 against him in the Southern League, more than 60 points higher than right-handers averaged.

Not all was bad, however. He surrendered two runs or less in nine of his starts, but still came away with just three wins in those games.

The 23-year old prospect had never posted an ERA over 3.83 since arriving in the organization in 2002. And since joining Eugene the following year his ERA over three stops was 2.79.

Thompson has one of the better hooks in the system, a true 12-to-6 bender that can break ankles. He offers a fastball that sits in the 88-to-92 MPH range, but will struggle with command of the pitch. His third offering is a change-up. In the middle of the season, he worked with the pitching coaches to change his arm slot permanently. It was something Thompson did on occasion to give hitters a different look and the movement on his pitches increased, spawning the Padres interest in him throwing from more of a three-quarters angle than over the top.

"We really want to see him command his fastball," Tye Waller, the Padres former director of player personnel, said. "He has a plus curveball, a plus change. We are looking for some good things from Sean in the future."

The same traits that make him so successful will, at times, also haunt Thompson. With a thought process that has him convinced in his ability, hits and especially walks drive him to lunacy.

Hunter S. Thompson once said, "The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." And Sean Thompson is the mold Hunter spoke about.

The biggest problem may be taking a walk yielded or base hit surrendered to the next batter. He actually gets upset about the one-out base knock. Forgetting about the last hitter and reapplying his focus would prevent those big innings. In the past he has always tried to overthrow, trying to be perfect instead of just trusting in his stuff and ability.

He is confident with his new arm slot and that took a little time to adjust to last year – but this year in the Southern League to begin the year should be where we see Thompson excel. The only thing holding him back is consistent control. How much of that is inside his head?

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