Friday, July 12, 2024

Grading Drew Thorpe’s MLB Debut

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Drew Thorpe was in line for the win as he walked off the field at T-Mobile Park for the final time on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old right-hander had just completed the five innings in his MLB debut, capped off by a defensive gem.  

With two outs and a runner on second Thorpe got Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh to hit a changeup softly into the infield grass towards third base. Thorpe scampered off the mound and raced to his left to pick up the ball and make an off-balance throw. Despite throwing off his back foot it was a perfect strike to first base. 

His teammates could learn a thing or two from his defense. The runner in scoring position at the time was thanks to a Lenyn Sosa throwing error. Thorpe allowed just two runs but only one was earned, thanks to a Nicky Lopez error in the third inning. 

Despite the defensive challenges, the White Sox third-ranked prospect, and No. 54 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s top-100 list, managed to fire five innings of two-run ball with four strikeouts. He allowed just three hits and two walks and threw 61 of his 98 pitches for strikes. 

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Thorpe was promoted to the MLB after posting a 7-1 record with a 1.35 ERA and .170 opponent batting average in Double-A Birmingham. The dominant showing allowed him to bypass Triple-A Charlotte altogether. Thorpe’s pitching repertoire is similar to Lucas Giolito’s. A low 90s, fastball paired with a lethal changeup. His changeup was on full display Tuesday night. 

Of his 98 pitches thrown, 38 of them were changeups. Thorpe’s changeup drew 19 swings and seven whiffs. While his fastball won’t be overpowering MLB hitters anytime soon, it pairs well with his changeup if he can locate it. Thorpe disguises his change well. It looks like a fastball coming out of his hand before it slams on the brakes and fades away from opposing barrels. Julio Rodriguez found out the hard way after he swung through an 84 mph changeup to become Thorpe’s first strikeout victim in the MLB. 

The former second-round pick recorded a perfect 1-2-3 first inning to kick off his debut. He ran into some trouble in the second inning after giving up a pair of two-out doubles. With the score tied 1-1 and runners at the corners, Thorpe was able to limit the damage by striking out Ryan Bliss with his changeup. 

The rookie ran into more problems in the third inning when Josh Rojas reached on a throwing error that should have been the second out of the inning. Two batters later Raleigh pushed across the Mariners’ second run of the evening with a double. 

With his pitch count climbing and control beginning to falter, Thorpe showed great poise in the fourth inning. He struck out Luke Raley with a high slider to open the frame. After walking Mitch Garver he battled back and struck out Dominic Canzone by getting him to freezing him with an 81 mph changeup that caught the bottom of the zone. Bliss flew out to center field to end the inning. 

Thorpe’s final inning of the night saw him record two quick outs before Rodriguez reached on an error. He then swiped second base, forcing Thorpe to take matters into his own hands with a stellar defensive effort to put an exclamation point on his debut. 

Despite leaving the field in line for a victory, the White Sox bullpen did what they do best and coughed up the lead. While he may not have earned a win he did earn the respect of his teammates. 

“He looked like a shortstop out there,” Paul DeJong told reporters when asked about Thorpe’s defensive effort. “He’s kind of a cool, calm and collected guy, and a good athlete, too.” 

Thorpe’s battery mate Martin Maldonado also noted that he was not afraid to shake him off during the game 

“I feel like he’s worked hard in his career to be here,” Maldonado said. “He made adjustments in the middle of the game which was good to see.” 

While his 70-grade changeup will get all the shine, he had all four of his pitches working. Thorpe was able to work backward, often throwing hitters an offspeed pitch on the first pitch of the at-bat. On top of his fastball and changeup, Thorpe worked in his cutter, curveball, and slider to attack Seattle hitters. 

While he struggled with command at times during the game, he remained poised and confident on the mound. He may have been able to get through six innings if not for the extra pitches he had to throw due to defensive miscues. But overall it is hard to consider Thorpe’s first MLB start anything but a success. 

The Grade: A-

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