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Under the Radar: Zach Thompson

With fewer walks and more strikeouts, this power forward of a pitcher is scooting up the ladder

BMIB: A terrific start in 2018 moved Thompson up from Winston-Salem, and he’s now the Big Man in Birmingham.
Winston-Salem Dash

Our new feature here at South Side Sox, Under the Radar, details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet.

Next up in the series is Zach Thompson, who started the year in Winston-Salem but earned a promotion to Birmingham for the second half.

Zach Thompson (RHP) Birmingham Barons

At six-foot-seven, 230 pounds, the first thing people notice regarding Zach Thompson is his size. Thompson, a fifth round pick from Texas-Arlington in 2014, obviously has an imposing build. Like Tyler Danish, his poor performance in minor league rotations have dropped him from most prospect lists and have forced him to a bullpen role.

Where Danish’s concerns were primarily due to relatively low velocity, Thompson’s difficulties arose due to a lack of repertoire and poor control. In 2017, MLB Pipeline graded Thompson out with a 60 fastball, 55 curveball, 40 changeup and 40 control. With only two solid pitches and poor control, it was somewhat inevitable that Thompson would project as a reliever.

Over 353 innings in the White Sox system from 2014-17, Thompson combined for a 4.31 ERA/1.42 WHIP/7.42 K/9. This year, in 31 combined games with Winston-Salem and Birmingham, the 24-year-old has posted improved results of 2.21/1.28/8.80. Thompson has allowed fewer walks while striking out more hitters — always a recipe for success. Because of Thompson’s stuff, he’s more likely to earn a high-leverage role at some point than a pitcher like Danish, projecting into the Sox bullpen as early as mid-2020.

However, with all the high-leverage reliever depth the White Sox have in their system presently (Zach Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Thyago Vieira, Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Tyler Johnson, and Jose Ruiz, to name just a few), it will be difficult for Thompson to win more than a seventh inning role in future Sox bullpens.