Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: RHP Zach Thompson
Next up in our 2023 season preview series is right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson.
Addison Barger, Anthony Bass, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, José Berríos, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Matt Chapman, Adam Cimber, Hagen Danner, Santiago Espinal, Matt Gage, Yimi García, Kevin Gausman, Chad Green, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Thomas Hatch, Spencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk, Otto Lopez, Nathan Lukes, Alek Manoah, Orelvis Martinez, Tim Mayza, Whit Merrifield, Nate Pearson, Zach Pop, Trevor Richards, Jordan Romano, Hyun Jin Ryu, George Springer, Erik Swanson
Before we dive in, here's a quick refresher on which projection systems we're looking at, as well as what they're saying about Thompson's 2023 season.
STEAMER: 34 G (2 GS), 2-2 record, 4.36 ERA, 34 SO and 13 BB in 41 innings
ZiPS: 29 G (16 GS), 5-6 record, 4.60 ERA, 83 SO and 33 BB in 101 innings
2022 stats (Pittsburgh): 29 G (22 GS), 3-10 record, 5.18 ERA, 90 SO and 46 BB in 121 innings
Acquired in January from the Pirates for minor league outfielder Chavez Young, Thompson gives the Jays some much-needed depth at the starting position spot. He has functioned as both a reliever and starter in the big leagues and has shown that he is capable of handling either role.
After coming up in the White Sox system strictly as a relief pitcher, he made the transition back to starting as a member of the Marlins in 2021. "While I was with the White Sox, I was trying to finish my pre-med degree and was getting married so they moved me to the bullpen to keep me mentally fresh", Thompson told me. "I enjoy starting, but think of myself as a team guy and will go into whatever role helps the team win games".
In the majors, Thompson's two seasons have been complete opposites of the other. In 2021 as a member of the Marlins, he made 26 appearances (14 starts) and posted a 3.24 ERA and 130 ERA+ in 75 innings. This strong performance warranted the interest from the Pirates, who acquired him in a trade for catcher Jacob Stallings.
Last season, Thompson struggled mightily in Pittsburgh. In 29 appearances (22 starts), he went 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA and 80 ERA+.
"I think I got too predictable in 2022", he says. "We focused so much on specific location strengths that I feel I lost some of the 'pitchability' you need as a starter. Seeing a major league lineup three times is difficult, but it's more difficult when variation is lacking. When I thrived in 2021, it's because I was not as predictable. There wasn't one location I pitched to with each pitch, it varied on movement that day and hitters' approach."
He mentioned to me that Pirates GM Ben Cherington made it clear that there was a lot of interest in him when he was designated for assignment, suggesting a trade was likely. "When he called me and told me I was traded to Toronto, he had nothing but kind words for the Blue Jays organization."
On his new team, Thompson is going to be meeting back up with some former teammates as well as an old manager of his, Don Mattingly. and says that him and his wife "could not be more ecstatic about coming to Toronto."
At 6-foot-7, Thompson is a highly imposing figure on the mound and has shown in the not-so-distant past that he has what it takes to succeed in the big leagues. His six-pitch repertoire and ability to function in whatever role necessary makes him an important asset to this organization, regardless of what level he is at.