Scouting The Waiver Market: Rich ThompsonBy
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…
- 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.
- 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.