The Yankees have a lot of resources tied to their rotation, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the future. Drew Thorpe, a second-round pick from the 2022 MLB Draft, represents an important part of that future.
The 22-year-old right-hander is enjoying his first pro season after pitching at Cal Poly from 2020-22. It’s fair to say that Thorpe has been turning heads this year. The Yanks aggressively assigned him to the High-A Hudson Valley Renegades, and far from being fazed by the competition, he is getting better with each outing.
On Sunday, Thorpe pitched seven scoreless innings against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, the Phillies’ High-A affiliate. He did it while conceding only five hits and no walks, striking out an incredible 12 hitters. His previous outing was also of the scoreless variety, as he blanked the Orioles’ High-A affiliate over eight innings on June 4th. Between the two starts, the righty has been immaculate through 15 innings, surrendering just a couple of walks with 19 punchouts.
Thorpe is now 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA and 3.28 FIP for the season, plus a pretty 20/71 BB/K ratio over 58.2 frames (10 starts). Thorpe came into last year’s draft with a reputation of being a pitcher with excellent command, and so far he has delivered on that promise.
Thorpe has the look of a fast riser through the Yankees system. Even though he doesn’t have a huge fastball – which caps his ceiling somewhat – he gets by with his pinpoint command, a plus-plus changeup that gets him a lot of whiffs at any situation or count, and a very solid slider.
FanGraphs prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen described Thorpe’s fastball as one with sinking action in his top Yankees prospects report prior to the start of the season: “His sinker lives at the bottom of the zone and to his arm side, with his changeup in that area and below, and he rarely ever hangs a slider.”
However, that was before Thorpe’s pro debut. This year, his fastball looks more like a traditional four-seamer and he is more eager to use him at the top of the strike zone.
Longenhagen did say this was a possibility:
“Considering his arm slot (which is fairly north/south), it’s kind of strange that he imparts sink/tail movement on the ball, and this might be augmented in pro ball to give him a four-seamer he can use at the top of the zone in addition to his sinker.”
It seems he has been using the four-seamer almost exclusively with the Renegades.
At 6-foot-4, Thorpe is athletic and has a projectable frame, which could eventually lead to a velocity spike. For the time being, he is sitting between 92-94 mph per Baseball America’s Mike Ashmore.
BA thinks that Thorpe’s transition to pro ball has been so smooth because of the development of a solid third pitch, his slider. Here are some of Thorpe’s thoughts:
“I’d always been a command guy. I knew where the ball was going, could put it wherever I wanted to, and I always had the changeup with me, so I think adding that third strikeout pitch was really helpful last year.”
The changeup is, however, Thorpe’s bread and butter. It gives him a nice weapon against lefties, as it tumbles just before reaching home plate. The video doesn’t lie, as he generated a lot of whiffs with it on Sunday. A lot:
The Yankees seem to really like Thorpe, and they have every reason to do it. Guys his age and at his level usually don’t have that kind of command, and we know the Yanks have a knack for getting some extra velocity from a lot of their pitching prospects.
The most encouraging part of Thorpe’s profile is that he is truly a pitcher, as opposed to a thrower. He has an advanced idea of what to do on the mound. For example, he told Joe Trezza of MLB.com that he did “something different with each guy throughout each of their at-bats and was able to keep them off balance for the most part.” He has a plan, and knows how to execute it. That’s half of the battle right there.
Thorpe might not have the ceiling of a true ace, but there is no reason to think he can’t be helping in the Yankees rotation at some point late in 2024 or in 2025. Of course, he could also be trade bait as the team pursues an impact player in upcoming deadlines or offseasons, but the Bombers would surely love to keep him around and keep a close track on his development through the high minors once he makes the jump to Double-A. With the way he has been dominating, that promotion could be in the cards in upcoming weeks.