David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers already used the waiver wire once this month to add a formerly well-regarded pitching prospect to the fold, claiming right-hander Ariel Hernandez from the Dodgers a week ago. The club dove back into scrapheap for a pitcher again earlier today, as Milwaukee announced that they had made a cash deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for righty Jake Thompson, who was designated for assignment on August 10th:
The #Brewers have acquired RHP Jake Thompson from Philadelphia in exchange for cash, and optioned him to Triple-A @skysox. RHP Alec Asher has been designated for assignment. RHP Matt Albers (left hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A @BiloxiShuckers tonight. pic.twitter.com/rdf5t0BAIE— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 14, 2018
Thompson was originally drafted in the second round by the Tigers in 2012, and he already has an interesting connection to the Brewers. He was part of the 2014 that brought Joakim Soria to Detroit in exchange for himself and Corey Knebel, and then a year later he was traded from Texas to Philadelphia - along with Alec Asher - in a package for Cole Hamels.
Thompson is still only 24 years old and was a consensus top-100 prospect in both 2015 and 2016, with Baseball America writing that he “profiles as a mid-rotation starter with the ceiling of a number two” prior to the 2016 season. He made his big league debut later that year but has struggled to meet those high expectations at the game’s highest level in parts of three seasons since then. He’s appeared in 30 MLB games (18 starts) and has tossed 116.1 innings while logging a 4.87 ERA, but with ghastly run estimators like a 133 FIP- and 135 DRA-.
Thompson has shown six different pitches as a big leaguer - four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, curveball, and slider. His fastball has averaged 91.7 MPH during his career, though it ticked up to 92.2 while he pitched solely in relief this season. His slider was considered to be his best secondary pitch while he was climbing the minor league ladder, but the results haven’t been there with the pitch against MLB hitters (career -4.0 wSL). His changeup has actually graded out as his best off-speed pitch the last two seasons.
Despite his promising pedigree, Thompson has struggled to miss bats at the MLB level (6.27 K/9, 7.4% swinging strike rate) and has had a lot of difficulty limiting free passes (4.27 BB/9) and home runs (1.55 HR/9). In nine appearances out of the bullpen for the Phillies this season, Thompson recorded two saves while authoring a 4.96 ERA and 14:11 K/BB ratio in 16.1 innings. He wasn’t much better for AAA Lehigh Valley, accruing 47.0 innings across 28 games (4 starts) with a 4.60 ERA.
Thompson will have one minor league option remaining heading into next season, meaning that like Hernandez, he could be an interesting project with the chance to pay off in 2019. Perhaps the opportunity to work with Derek Johnson in Milwaukee will help to unlock more of his upside, and he could begin next year as part of the bullpen shuttle (or rotation depth) with the chance to earn a greater role. In the immediate, Thompson will join the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox to start his stint with the Brewers.
To make room for Thompson on the 40 man roster, Milwaukee designated righty Alec Asher for assignment. He was claimed on waivers from the Dodgers earlier this year and made only two appearances for Milwaukee at the big league level, tallying three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and a walk. He had spent the majority of the year with Colorado Springs, posting a 5.51 ERA across 85.0 innings (18 games, 13 starts) with uninspiring marks of 4.02 K/9 and 3.39 BB/9. Asher has already been outrighted once by the Brewers this season, meaning he has the option of electing free agency if he clears waivers again this time around.
The Brewers also announced that Matt Albers will head to AA Biloxi for a rehab assignment as he recovers from a sore hamstring. Albers was nails for the Brewers out of the bullpen until he got hurt in June, then he missed six weeks of action and just never looked quite right upon his return. His ERA sits at an ugly 6.23 in 30.1 innings in 2018, and he’s under contract for 2019 as well.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus