Padres Prospect Interview: Sean Thompson

San Antonio, TX-- Last year Sean Thompson, 24, may not have only been the best starter in Mobile, but maybe in the entire system. He led the organization in strikeouts with 134 and only Josh Geer, at both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, threw more innings than Thompson.

Thompson went deep into most of his starts and demonstrated that he may have the ability to be a major league starter. In 154 innings, the left-handed Thompson allowed 148 hits while issuing a free pass to 46. He averaged nearly six innings a start and had close to a three to one K/BB ratio with a 3.86 ERA. What killed Thompson were lapses in concentration, as evidenced by the 18 home runs that he gave up, which was second only to Tim Stauffer's 20 and some buzzard's luck with run support to land a 6-10 record.

His best pitches are a plus curveball and changeup to go along with increasing effective fastball in the mid-to-high eighties, which is effective when he is able to keep it down and move it in and out.

Coming into Tuesday's start, Thompson again hasn't had the most luck with run support, but he is still among the league leaders in the Texas League in innings pitched and ERA. In 56.1 innings he's allowed 44 hits and only 15 earned runs. His K/BB ratio isn't as impressive as it was last year at 40/23, but that is mainly the result of two back-to-back starts where he walked 10 batters. Since then, he's only allowed more than two walks once with batters hitting only .220 against him.

After a very good April, 3-1 with a 0.64 ERA, he has struggled in May with a 0-3 record with a 4.18 ERA. Still with the call-up of Justin Germano and the struggles of Tim Stauffer and Jared Wells, Thompson may be the next best option for a starter in San Diego's system.

What has been the biggest change from last year for you in how you approach each start?

Sean Thompson: To be honest the way things are going last year and the way they finished up, I wasn't really expecting to come back to Double-A. I thought I would be in Portland.

Us too.

Sean Thompson: Yeah, but all things aside going into this season I thought that I am healthy, happy and getting paid. Because of the move to San Antonio, it feels like more of a new start and tried to be positive.

Last year I had you as the pitcher of the year in Mobile. In 154 innings you had had 46 walks, but this year you've been walking guys a little bit more. Any reason for this?

Sean Thompson: To be honest, everything else aside, it seems like right now I'm almost preparing to fail. What I mean is that I'm getting ready if I hit a rough spot in the game, how to keep control of my emotions and work on getting out of any problem that comes up. Nothing with my mechanics, I'm just missing a little more. I really don't think I've been all over the place.

Now when people talk about you it's always about your plus curve and change, but no one seems to write about how much your fastball has improved, particularly your command of it. I've been able to watch you over three years and that is what jumps out at me as your biggest improvement. Especially, you seem to be much more comfortable throwing more fastballs in.

Sean Thompson: With me not being the biggest guy in the world and not bringing it around 95, my game has always been more about locating the fastball. I'm getting a little more movement with my fastball and I notice if I go in slightly more, then my changeup is much more effective.

You've told me a few times before that even if you added a little more velocity; if you're missing your spot, then that just mean the ball is going to go a little further when it goes out.

Sean Thompson: Absolutely. Abby has helped me out a lot in not getting out of my element. I'm not a power pitcher.

Ready gave me a hard time about this the other night when I said you seem to be doing a better job of channeling your aggression into the game instead of onto yourself. I think the term he used was "pyschobabble". [Laughs].

Sean Thompson: Yeah, I mean everyone has read the scouting report; ‘his attitude is this, his attitude is that", it just gets old after awhile. I'm 24 and need to get rid of this stigma. I'm sick of this and I'm going to get past it.

Early this year Savage had you pretty far down on the pitching rankings compared to Conniff who had you as the best pitcher in Double-A and the number two pitcher in the organization. In light of your strong performance this year, what do you think is the reason for Conniff's superior pitching knowledge?

Sean Thompson: Really it's just an all encompassing knowledge of everything. One plus one is still two. Denis is still working on that. [Laughing].

I looked at Madfriars before I do Baseball America so it wasn't that far down there and I can still get back up there.

Author's note: The interview was conducted in April, not May. John still stands by his contention that Thompson is the second best pitcher in the system and it goes without question that he agrees with Thompson's assessment.

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