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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 36: Zach Thompson

Conversion to relief has proven a charm, putting this tall righty on the fast track to the majors

Fall exposure: The White Sox selected Thompson for the AFL but didn’t protect him on the 40-man roster last year.
Kim Contreras/South Side Sox

Zach Thompson
230 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 25
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 6

Thompson, despite his stuff and imposing build, didn’t exactly overwhelm with small school Texas-Arlington during his three-year college career. His junior season wasn’t quite as good as his freshman year, but was a marked improvement over his sophomore campaign. In that junior season, he posted a 4.64 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 16 games (all starts). In 87 innings, Thompson relinquished 97 hits and 32 walks while striking out 62. However, despite those modest numbers, the Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft due to his impressive stuff and imposing build.

Over 353 innings in the White Sox system from 2014-17, Thompson combined for a 4.31 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, to go along with a 10.1 BB% and 18.90 K%. Due to the lack of results, which had more to do with a lack of repertoire and poor control than velocity, Thompson was converted from the rotation to the bullpen to begin 2018.

In 2018, in a combined 41 games with Winston-Salem and Birmingham encompassing 75 13 innings, Thompson posted an exceptional 1.55 ERA and 1.14 WHIP by surrendering just 57 hits (.206 OBA) and 29 walks (9.4%) but striking out 76 batters (24.5%). After the minor league season was over, he pitched for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League and acquitted himself well, posting a 4.73 ERA but 1.20 WHIP in 13 13 innings by allowing 10 hits and six walks while striking out 15.

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 shift to the bullpen as a reliever. His changeup may have been working better in 2018, as lefties hit about 10 points lower against his offerings than righties did. His fastball also may have played up a tick or two, as evidenced by his increased strikeout rate. While his walk rate improved this year, it still wasn’t great — but it should suffice in a seventh-inning type role in the bullpen.

Thompson was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League (2.70 ERA) but was not listed on the 40-man roster this offseason, perhaps the most controversial omission this offseason. In 2019 between Birmingham and Charlotte, Thompson has solved any control issues (2.0 BB/9), but has been getting hit up more, with a 4.58 ERA in his first 17 23 innings. Still, as a pitcher who’s proven he can handle anything that’s thrown at him, at the very least a September call-up seems probable.

Take a look!

Footage courtesy of our pals at 2080 Baseball.

2019 South Side Sox Top 100 Prospects

36. Zach Thompson, RHRP
37. Camilo Quinteiro, 2B
38. A.J. Puckett, RHSP
39. Amado Nuñez, 2B
40. Jordan Guerrero, LHSP
41. Tyler Frost, RF
42. Danny Mendick, SS
43. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS
44. Kade McClure, RHSP
45. Luis Mieses, CF
46. Ti’quan Forbes, 3B
47. Thyago Vieira, RHRP
48. Corey Zangari, 1B
49. Yermin Mercedes, C
50. Anderson Comas, RF
51. Gunnar Troutwine, C
52. Codi Heuer, RHSP
53. Andrew Perez, LHRP
54. Josue Guerrero, LF
55. Jacob Lindgren, LHRP
56. Ryan Cordell, CF
57. Joel Booker, LF
58. Bennett Sousa, LHRP
59. Blake Battenfield, RHSP
60. Caberea Weaver, CF
61. Matt Foster, RHRP
62. Tate Blackman, 2B
63. Hunter Schryver, LHRP
64. Romy González, CF
65. Carlos Perez, C
66. Trey Michalczewski, 3B
67. Taylor Varnell, LHSP
68. John Parke, LHSP
69. Mike Morrison, RHRP
70. Zach Remillard, 3B
71. Luis Martinez, RHSP
72. Zach Lewis, RHSP
73. José Nin, RHRP
74. Colton Turner, LHSP
75. Jhoandro Alfonso, C
76. Ramon Beltre, 2B
77. Charlie Tilson, CF
78. Hunter Kiel, RHRP
79. Jason Bilous, RHSP
80. Nick Johnson, RHRP
81. Danny Dopico, RHRP
82. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
83. Logan Sowers, RF
84. Maiker Feliz, 3B
85. Brayan Herrera, RHSP
86. Craig Dedelow, LF
87. Wilber Pérez, RHSP
88. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
89. Johan Dominguez, RHRP
90. Mitch Roman, 2B
91. Ty Greene, C
92. Tanner Banks, LHSP
93. Jake Elliott, RHRP
94. Kevin Escorcia, LHRP
95. Luis Rodriguez, RHSP
96. Ian Dawkins, LF
97. Victor Diaz, RHRP
98. Travis Moniot, LF
99. Will Kincanon, RHRP
100. Brian Clark, LHRP

More information on South Side Top Prospects.