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White Sox prospect Drew Thorpe pitching

Prospect Spotlight: Drew Thorpe Looking Better than Advertised

by Michael Suareo

While pitching prospects Nick Nastrini and Jonathan Cannon recently making their MLB debuts, another young arm is waiting in the wings. Drew Thorpe, who was acquired along with Jairo Iriarte and Samuel Zavala in the Dylan Cease trade, is even more highly regarded among scouting circles and is already making a case to be part of the White Sox 2024 plans and beyond.

Given the current state of the Chicago White Sox, 2024 is becoming a season to evaluate the young players and determine who fits in the long-term plans. In back-to-back games, the White Sox have given two of its top pitching prospects a chance to prove their worth at the MLB level, and we should expect to see them consistently throughout the season. Neither of those pitchers is as highly regarded as Drew Thorpe, however, and fans should be excited to see when the right-hander finally gets his call to the majors.

Who is Drew Thorpe?

Drew Thorpe is a 6’4″ right-handed pitcher that the Yankees originally drafted in the second round of the 2022 MLB First-Year Player Draft. A consensus All-American, he was rated by MLB Pipeline as the 61st overall prospect in that draft class and received some comps to Kyle Hendricks. Scouts lauded Thorpe for having arguably the best changeup in his draft class, a projection that has held true as that pitch has led his arsenal throughout his minor league career. 

While he didn’t pitch for the Yankees in 2022, he made his professional debut in early April of the 2023 season, jumping straight to the High-A level. Thorpe proved to be up for the aggressive assignment, holding a 2.81 ERA and showcasing an impressive ability to miss bats in 109 innings at that level before receiving a promotion to Double-A. He finished his season pitching 30.1 innings there, where somehow he looked even better with a minuscule 1.48 ERA. He capped off his stellar season by earning the Prospect Pitcher of the Year award by MLB Pipeline.

It is clear that Thorpe was high on many teams’ radar, as he was the headliner in two separate trades this past offseason. Before being acquired by the White Sox, he was traded by the Yankees as the top piece of the package to acquire Juan Soto. While it was surprising that the Padres were willing to trade him before he pitched an inning in their organization, the fact they waited until late Spring Training to pull the trigger indicates that they weren’t exactly eager to move on from him so quickly.

Why should we be excited about Drew Thorpe?

Thorpe has earned his way into being a consensus Top 100 prospect in all of baseball with his performance on the mound, along with ranking third in the White Sox system. However, it is what he could develop into as an MLB starting pitcher that should excite White Sox fans.

While Thorpe doesn’t blow people away with a high-velocity fastball or a breaking pitch with crazy movement, he still possesses a knack for missing bats. He tops out at 95 on his fastball, a tick-up from his college days, but because he can spot it with pinpoint accuracy, it plays up. His slider has also developed nicely since his college days, making it an at least average breaking pitch. However, it is his elite change-up, combined with his phenomenal ability to command his full arsenal, that makes him dangerous every time he steps on the mound. 

Keeping his ERA low in his first professional season was impressive enough, but the underlying stats tell an even more impressive story. His combination of producing strikeouts and minimizing walks resulted in a 4.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which for context is double that of Blake Snell in his 2023 Cy Young award-winning 2023 season. He also held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average against, and paired his high strikeout rate with a near 50% ground ball rate, showing off the ability to also induce weak contact.

While he might not have the same ceiling as fellow White Sox pitching prospect Noah Schultz, Drew Thorpe is not far behind and is clearly the second-best pitching prospect in the organization. With the upside of being a No. 2 pitcher in an MLB rotation and a floor that should guarantee he contributes to an MLB club in some capacity, Thorpe looks to have a long MLB career that should begin very soon..

When will Thorpe be called up?

Drew Thorpe began the season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, but through his first two starts, it already looks like he deserves a promotion to face more advanced competition. It is entirely possible he will fill in the void that has recently been left in Charlotte, placing him one step closer to his MLB debut.

With other options already present on the 40-man roster, it is unlikely Thorpe would be called up for just a spot start. If he continues on the dominant path he has been on, a promotion sometime this summer is completely possible.

For more prospect analysis, make sure to follow us @PipelineTo35th!

Featured image: @BhamBarons/X

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