Position: Left Handed Pitcher Height: 6-6 Weight: 220
Born: 10/30/1983 Bats: Left Throws: Left
Thornton was a 21st round choice of the Tigers this past June, after completing a highly successful four-year career at Big East powerhouse Notre Dame. As a prep athlete, Tom starred in basketball, baseball, and cross country for Middleboro High School in Massachusetts. During his final high school season and summer before college, Thornton combined for a 15-1 record with two saves, a 0.64 ERA, and 186 strikeouts in only 110 innings pitched.
He debuted for the Fighting Irish as an impact freshman, logging a 5-1 record and 1.81 ERA as a mid-week starter in 2003. His sophomore season saw him move to the weekend rotation where he notched a 9-2 record and was nominated as an Academic All-American, to go along with his Academic All-District V honors. Tom continued his 2004 success with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League (3-5, 3.81 ERA), tying for the team lead in wins. Despite less than impressive numbers as a junior in the Irish rotation, Thornton was honored with Second Team All-Big East accolades. Thornton's senior season saw him take on a prominent leadership role for Notre Dame; being named a co-captain along with shortstop Greg Lopez. Tom tied for third on the Irish in wins during his senior campaign, and capped his career by being named a candidate for both All-American and Academic All-American honors.
His pro debut came in the New York-Penn League for Oneonta, where he posted a 2-4 record in 11 starts, with a 3.33 ERA and impressive control.
Tom is a classic crafty left-hander with underwhelming velocity. His fastball sits in the 84-86 range, and can touch 88 on occasion. He has incredible control of his fastball, spotting it to all four quadrants equally well. Thornton has demonstrated the ability to turn his fastball over, gaining added sink, helping him against right-handed hitters.
His curveball and change-up are both average offerings, with only the change having the potential to continue developing towards a plus pitch. He commands both pitches well, but must gain more consistency spotting his curveball low in the zone. Thornton has exceptional command and makeup which both allow him to pitch above his raw stuff. He has good mechanics, and his above-average athleticism allows him to field his position well. An intelligent pitcher, Thornton understands how to pitch during all game situations, and is constantly looking to learn. With a ceiling limited by his average arsenal, Thornton profiles as a mediocre back of the rotation starter, or solid long man out of the bullpen.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP SS-A
Thornton has clean mechanics and has not experienced even minor injuries to this juncture of his baseball career.
The most likely destination for Thornton in 2007 will be the West Michigan rotation, where he should help anchor another good staff for the ‘Caps. Thornton is durable and should help eat plenty of innings throughout the season. His experience at the collegiate level will likely allow him to excel in the typically young Midwest League. With such an advanced feel for pitching, Thornton should be among the first starters to receive a promotion to Lakeland if a slot becomes available.
In the end, Tom's inability to dial his fastball up beyond 90 mph may hold him back in the eyes of the organization, but in spite of this, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to advance through a system bereft of left-handed pitching prospects. His best chance to make the Major Leagues will likely come in a situational relief role.
You can contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org