Pittsburgh Pirates: The Intriguing Arm of Zach Thompson

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Intriguing Arm of Zach Thompson

by December 2, 2021 1 comment

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their biggest trade of the offseason by sending Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Pirates received three players, including two of the Marlins’ top 30 prospects. The haul also included Zach Thompson, who is coming off a breakout rookie campaign. With the Pirates in need of pitching help, Thompson will be counted on right away.

After seven seasons in the minors, Thompson made his MLB debut in June. He proved to be a pleasant surprise as he struck out 66 batters and posted a 3.24 ERA in 26 games. While the Texas native began the season in the rotation, he was moved to the bullpen in September. As a reliever, he continued to impress and only allowed five runs in his final 13 appearances. On a pitching staff that struggled to stay healthy, the former fifth-round pick was a valuable piece.

Additionally, Thompson excelled with runners on base. In high leverage situations, the University of Texas at Arlington product held batters to a .188 average. When it mattered the most, he was able to limit the damage. Due to a stellar fastball that opponents hit .186 average against, Thompson was not an easy pitcher to face. The 2014 draftee also threw the fourth-most innings of any Marlins pitcher in 2021.

2022 Expectations for Thompson

Entering last season, Thompson was not a household name. After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2014, he posted a 4.04 ERA in the minors before electing free agency amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, when the Marlins needed an arm, Thompson stepped up and showed that he belonged in the majors. The Pirates are hoping that he can replicate that success.

In Thompson’s second MLB season, he is projected to post a 3.78 ERA. That would be an upgrade for the Pirates, as Dillon Peters was the only starter to post an ERA under four in 2021. While some regression is expected, the 28-year-old has a pitch mix that allows him to be successful. Regardless of how the Pirates add to their roster, Thompson is expected to battle for a rotation spot. 

As the Pirates turn their focus to 2022, pitching will be essential. Last season they finished with a 5.08 ERA which was the third-worst in the majors. Thompson is an upside arm with good control that can give Pittsburgh quality innings. He will also be highly motivated to prove that his success in 2021 was no fluke. On a team that is still rebuilding, he has the perfect opportunity to build on his success in Miami.

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