Seems Thompson has been making some noise in camp recently and now is considered to be the favorite to inherit the 8th inning set up role. At the same time, he is a dark horse candidate to win the 5th spot in the rotation. I thought it would be fun to take a quick look over the career of Brad Thompson:
Thompson was selected in the 16th round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Dixie State College out of Utah. (It's a JUCO.) In 2003 and at the age of 21, Brad made his debut at low class A Peoria and fared well, posting a 2.91 ERA over 65 innings. He appeared in 30 games, starting 4 of them. In those 65 innings, he struck out 41, walked only 10 and allowed just 2 home runs. He was promoted to high class A where he appeared in 2 games, starting 1. Not a bad debut overall. His K rate was below average to call him a prospect, but with his control plus ground ball % he certainly could've been labeled a sleeper.
Converted to starting from pitching primarily in relief in 2004, Thompson made national headlines when he set a Southern League record 49 scoreless innings. Being switched from starting to relief seemed to help Thompson, as he improved his K/9 ratio to 7.12 from 5.95 while maintaining his control. But as the season went on, Thompson tired both physically (shoulder) and mentally (you try and be perfect for 49 innings) and fizzled somewhat towards the end of the season. He finished the season in AAA and allowed 20 hits and 9 earned runs in just 14 innings. It should also be noted that Thompson represented the Cardinals in the Futures Game that year during the All Star Break. He was ranked the number #6 Cardinal prospect by Baseball America and #4 by John Sickels.
You would perhaps think that after his season in 2004 the Cardinals would have thought they had a future starting pitcher on their hands, but the Cardinals joined the consensus that Thompson was destined to the bullpen due to his lack of overwhelming "stuff". Given a choice between the shortcut of making the bigs as a reliever or taking the longer and more uncertain road of starting, Thompson accepted a role in the 'pen at Memphis in 2005, and was quickly promoted to the Show, making his debut 5/8/05 and picking up a cheap save that day. He stuck the rest of the year in the "get out of a jam with a double play on a ground ball" role. His strikeout rate was only 4.75, but he didn't need to make a lot of guys whiff when batters were beating the ball into the ground 60% of the time.
Last year Brad got off to a good start, but went on a downturn in May and was crap in July, and was sent back to AAA to work on his mechanics. He made 14 appearances for Memphis and started in 5 games to get in more work and to perhaps audition for a future role. As we know, he finished the season with the big club and was on the playoff roster.
He's having an excellent spring thus far, and has caught TLR/DD's eyes for the shape he has come to camp in. Matt Leach at his blog reports that Thompson is a long shot to win a rotation job, but isn't that far out of reach that he can't win the job. With Kinney out, it's more likely now he'll remain in the bullpen, but when you look at his stats he's actually been better as a starter then a reliever over his brief career. Sure, those are minor league numbers and there's that 49 scoreless inning streak with all it's luckiness, but maybe Thompson could make a decent starting pitcher. I'm not for sure he can, but you can say the same of Looper, and BT has more starting experience. Fatigue has always been a concern for Thompson, but if it's true that he is in terrific shape, maybe he could endure the longer outings. No matter what role he lands in, he should be an asset.
There you have it. Behold! Wonderbrad!