Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aaron Thompson continues his late season surge in JAX

Aaron Thompson continued his strong summer campaign in Jacksonville Tuesday night in an 11-4 win over Birmingham. He went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits, while walking none and striking out 3. Is one mistake of the night was a 2 strike, 2 out hanger to LF David Cook who deposited the ball over the right field wall for a 2 run homerun.

In his last 10 starts, Thompson is 3-2 with a 3.28era in 60.1 innings of work. He has given up 22 earned runs on 55 hits, while walking 20 and striking out 41. Opposing batters are hitting just .234 off of him during this run of solid outings. The strikeouts still aren't ideal, but he's definitely missing some bats. This continues to raise the question if Thompson is eventually going to move to the bullpen, or will he continue being a starter?

Thompson was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Marlins. He was awarded with a $1.225mil bonus. Most believed he would be a tough sign because he had committed to Texas A&M early on, but things changed once the Aggies fired their coaching staff, and Aaron then signed with the Fish. After struggling in his first couple of professional outings, he came back strong in his Jamestown campaign with a 3.10era in just over 20 innings. The 6'3 left-hander spent the 2006 season at low-A Greensboro and showed much promise in what is considered a hitter friendly league. Thompson went 8-8 with a 3.63era and a 1.30whip in 134 innings of work. The longball was a bit of a problem as he gave up 12, but he did strikeout 114 compared to just 35 walks. 2007 was a minor breakout for him. Aaron battled with shoulder tendonitis early on but still went 4-6 with a 3.37era and a 1.36whip in 115 innings of work in high-A Jupiter. He gave up just 2 homeruns, while walking 35 and striking out 84. What was most impressive from his 2007 performance was his consistency from month to month. Besides June where he had a 4.05era, his era in every other month was 3.67 or better.

Thompson took a major step backwards in 2008 while in Carolina. He dealt with injuries much of the year and when he was healthy he showed little command. His strikeouts plummeted and he gave up well over a hit per inning. Like many finesse left-handers, Thompson has garnered plenty of comparisons to Tom Glavine. Thompson’s fastball sits at 89-91mph and his three secondary pitches, changeup, curveball and slider, are all solid. His curveball has the most potential out of those pitches. All four of his pitches have the potential to be (or are already) plus pitches. Aaron has shown good poise, savvy and competitiveness on the mound. He also showed a much improved pick-off move at first base, and was good at holding runners. He has a projectile frame, and should add strength and muscle in the near future. With this added strength, his pitches should have improved velocity as well.

Most would say that Thompson is near his ceiling as a #3 or 4 starter. I believe with the improvement of all four of his pitches, his ceiling is much closer to being a #2 than in being a #4. He's about as developed as much as a 22 year old can be and has done well in his second season in the Southern League. Heading into August, he's 5-9 with a 4.11era, .268baa in 114 innings. Lefties are hitting just .209 against him. With just a few starts left before the season ends, it will be interesting to see if Thompson's arm tires out or if he can finish strong.

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