Sunday, April 18, 2004

Thompson to make his AAA debut 

With righthander Ricardo Rodriguez sidelined with appendicitis, Frisco righty Erik Thompson has been promoted to take Rodriguez's place in the Oklahoma rotation. Thompson will make his debut against Kansas City AAA affiliate Omaha today at 2 p.m.

I'm a big fan of the 21 year old Thompson, whom Grady Fuson drafted out of junior college in the 12th round in 2002. After a nice debut, splitting time between the GCL and the Appalachian League, Thompson turned a lot of heads in 2003, splitting time between low-A Clinton and high-A Stockton. He dominated at each level, and despite bringing serious heat with his fastball, he's got an uncanny ability to control the strike zone, as he came into the season with 22 walks versus 164 strikeouts in 193 professional innings.

The knock on Thompson thusfar has been his height; he's listed at 5'11", but reportedly is closer to 5'8" or 5'9", and scouts have traditionally discounted short righthanders (despite the success of pitchers such as Roy Oswalt and the Fuson-drafted Tim Hudson in recent years). His build has led some to speculate that he won't be able to handle the rigors of starting in the majors, and will be relegated to a relief role.

Nevertheless, Thompson came out of the box strong this year, going 6 1/3 innings in his AA debut, striking out 4, walking just one batter, and allowing just a single hit and no runs. With the promotion to Oklahoma, Thompson has a chance to ensure that his career AA ERA will stay at 0.00; Fuson has not been shy about rapidly promoting players who show they can handle the challenges in the past, and if Thompson can hold his own in Oklahoma, he may never return to AA. And, more importantly, if he continues pitching in Oklahoma the way he has throughout his professional career, he could be pitching at TBIA before the season is up.

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