Scouting The Waiver Market: Rich Thompson

Angels rough up Hughes in blowout
2012 Draft: Midseason Prospect Rankings

The Yankees aren’t exactly hurting for bullpen help at the moment, but they’re always looking to add depth to the organization. The Angels, despite their early-season bullpen concerns, cut loose a nice young arm before yesterday’s game by designating Rich Thompson for assignment. The 27-year-old Australian-born right-hander pitched to a 3.00 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 54 IP for the Halos just last season, but they’d apparently seen enough after he allowed four runs in 2.1 IP this year.

Now that Thompson will hit the waiver wire, let’s take a look to see if he’s someone the Yankees should have interest in acquiring…

The Good

  • Thompson owns a legitimate put-away pitch in his big breaking, mid-70s curveball. The pitch has allowed him to post a 9.09 K/9 and a 23.2 K% in 104 big league innings. Thompson also throws a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s cutter, typical reliever stuff. His walk rates are solid but unspectacular: 3.20 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%.
  • It’s only 207 batters faced, but Thompson has held big league lefties to a measly .243/.312/.378 batting line with a 22.7 K%. He’s shown a similar split throughout his Triple-A career as well.
  • Thompson’s medical history is relatively clean. He missed three weeks with shoulder inflammation and two weeks with a strained pectoral, both back in 2010. He’s been healthy throughout his career otherwise.

The Bad

  • Thompson’s fastball velocity is trending downwards, averaging just 88.9 mph in the early going this year. His effectiveness against lefties is negated by his struggles against right-handed batters, who’ve tagged him for a .265/.320/.502 batting line with a 23.7 K% in the bigs.
  • As you might expect with a slugging percentage that high, Thompson can be prone to the long ball. His career ground ball rate and homer rates are 38.2% and 1.56 HR/9, respectively. Last year, his only full year in the show, it was a more manageable 40.9% and 0.83 HR/9.
  • Thompson is out of options, so he can’t be sent to the minors without first being passed through waivers. That’s why the Angels had to cut him in the first place.

I’ve always liked Thompson and I think he’s a poor man’s version of David Robertson. They’re both relatively undersized fastball/cutter/curveball right-handers with big strikeout rates and less than desirable walk rates. Robertson is obviously much more successful, particularly when it comes to keeping the ball in the park, but Thompson is cut from a similar cloth. Guys that can miss bats out of the bullpen are right up the Yankees’ alley.

The out of options thing is a problem because there’s no room for Thompson in the bullpen at the moment. Ideally the Yankees would claim him off waivers then stash him in Triple-A, but it’s not that simple. Their best bet would be to claim him and then immediately remove him from the 40-man roster, hoping he gets through the rest of the league unclaimed. It’s the same thing they did with Craig Tatum; get him in the organization but off the 40-man and in the minors. If the Yankees can pull that off and add Thompson to the depth chart, great. If not, well no big deal. He’s better than your typical waiver wire fodder, however.

Angels rough up Hughes in blowout
2012 Draft: Midseason Prospect Rankings
  • jjyank

    Seems like a “why the hell not” sort of move. Go for it Cash, see if it works.

  • Howard Cosell

    “I think what guys want to know is where they’re going to be on a daily basis,” Girardi said.

    Its incredible that the Yankees brass thinks this only applies to hitters and not pitchers.

    They disguise an “unhealthy lack of commitment to the starting pitchers” with the disguise of “competition brings out the best in everyone.

    Statements like “All we’re asking is for each pitcher to pitch to the best of their capability.”

    The management of the Yankees is inconsistent at best….

    • jjyank


  • Anon

    Mike, any thoughts on Bowden being DFA’d by RSN? Worth a look in our organization?

    • Mike Axisa

      No, he’s awful. Plus I irrationally dislike him.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        And to think just last year some writer (Goldstein I think) called Bowden in the minors, “flat-out dominant in the bullpen”. I laughed and laughed and laughed on that one.

        Good times.

        • Gonzo

          Wasn’t the rumor that he was untouchable until his SO/9 strted dropping then they were trying to add him to every deal?

          Good times, good times. Gammons must have been on full propaganda mode.

  • Samuel

    You mean the Yankees should do what they did with Craig Tatum? The Craig Tatum with the under .300 career OBP? That Craig Tatum?

    Yankees have quite a few young reliever arms who could be ready to go by the end of the season, like Chase Whitley, or by next year.

    If they wanted to stash a young arm (and better arm) than Rich Thompson, they should have kept George Kontos.

    • Mike Axisa

      I don’t think Kontos is better than Thompson at all. Kontos seems to have magically turned into the next David Robertson with that trade. I liked him, but let’s not overstate what he was.

      • What the Kruk?

        All of this Kontos love is pretty bizarre. He has always been pedestrian, at best.

      • Plank

        let’s not overstate what he was.

        Kontos is just a baseball player/national hero. He is most famous for his 3.31 ERA spread across 7 minor league seasons and his knack for deposing despotic dictators from Dhaka to Damascus. George “Arab Spring” Kontos is the finest Yankee the world has ever known.

  • Goosemania

    What about Mike Bowden of the red sox? 2 years younger… decent upside. Astros probably give him look though.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Worth a try to take a flier on Thompson to stash in AAA but with relievers dropping like flies around the league, you gotta think someone will give him a chance on a major léague roster.

    Also the Yankees probably won’t need him especially after the inevitable return of Hughes to the pen

  • Rookie

    I don’t know anything about him, but his flashes of brilliance in the minors make me want to know more.