Over the last year, right-hander Matt Thompson has developed into one of the most promising–and perhaps one of the more underrated–right-handed arms in the Texas Rangers system.
The Burleson native was originally drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB Draft, and he commanded a well-above slot $600,000 signing bonus to keep him away from Texas Christian University.
Upon signing, Thompson had his share of struggles, yielding a whopping 23 runs on 25 hits in just 8.1 innings with the rookie-level AZL Rangers. He showed improvement in the following Fall Instructional League but still struggled results-wise.
The Rangers felt Thompson had made enough strides to send him to the short-season Spokane rotation in 2009, and he handled the challenge extremely well.
After getting off to a rocky start, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect performed admirably down the stretch. Thompson logged a 5.80 ERA in his first eight starts with the Indians, but he lowered that mark to 2.97 in his final seven outings. In addition to being less hittable, he became a control freak, issuing just two free passes [while fanning 27] in those last 36.1 innings.
For the year, the hurler finished with respectable numbers for a youngster in the Northwest League, logging a 4.38 ERA with just 10 walks in 72 innings.
To the casual stat observer, Thompson's '09 campaign wasn't very impressive. On the whole, he was hittable [87 hits in 72 innings; .301 BAA] and didn't strike out a ton of hitters [53 in 72 innings], but it's the body and progression of stuff and pitchability that made last season so promising.
Thompson flashed a consistently 89-92 mph fastball that touched 93 at times, and he could sit a bit higher as he develops. As he explains in the following interview, Thompson made a mechanical adjustment that helped him gain a little natural life on his fastball, which had the reputation for being a bit flat in the past.
The 20-year-old's best pitch is his power overhand curveball, which profiles as a true plus big league pitch with time. Thompson also made major strides with his changeup last year despite having almost zero experience with the offering prior to the season. One Northwest League scout observed he had ‘more than just a good feel for it.'
Lone Star Dugout chatted with the pitcher on Tuesday afternoon, as he looks forward to a 2010 season that should begin with a spot in a full-season starting rotation.
Jason Cole: If you can, just talk about what you did in the offseason to prepare for 2010, and talk about what the Rangers' throwing program was like.
Matt Thompson: The offseason–I got a lot of long toss in and threw off the mound in January. I was just working on mechanics mostly. And I was throwing a lot of changeups during long toss. Stuff like that.
Cole: You started working on a changeup not long after you signed with the Rangers in 2008, but you really began implementing it during games last season in Spokane. Do you have just a general estimate as to how often you were throwing your changeup during starts last summer?
Thompson: Early on, it wasn't very much. But I tried to throw it anywhere between seven or ten times an outing.
Cole: When you got into the system and pitched in the AZL in 2008, were you throwing any changeups at all?
Thompson: No, not really.
Cole: Share on Twitter
Thompson getting more movement
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