It’s been a long and winding road for Thorpe, who originally signed back in 2012 out of Australia for $500,000. He began his career well enough, reaching full-season ball in 2014, but elbow issues disrupted his development. He was shut down in 2014 and needed Tommy John surgery that kept him off the mound for all of 2015. A case of mono during rehab knocked him out for 2016 as well. Since, he’s slowly built himself back up, topping 100 innings in each of the last two seasons, pitching in the 2018 Futures Game and making his big league debut in 2019.
While Thorpe doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, he continues to get the job done in confounding hitters at every level he pitches at, striking out nearly 30 percent of hitters with a solid four-pitch mix. He’ll sit at 91 mph and touch 93 with his fastball and it plays up because of his deception and ability to command the pitch. His curve continued to improve in 2019 and it’s his best pitch, pairing very well with his fastball. He has an effective sinking changeup and will mix in a slider as well.
The further Thorpe is removed from his injury and illness, the more confidence he has shown on the mound. Most of his big league debut was spent helping the Twins’ playoff push out of the bullpen, but he still very much has a starting pitcher profile.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
There were high hopes for Thorpe when he signed as a 16-year-old out of Australia back in 2012 for $500,000. He got off to a great start at the lower levels of Minnesota's system then started running into elbow troubles, getting shut down in 2014 and needing Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2015 season. He missed 2016 as well when he contracted mono during rehab, finally returning and shaking off the rust the following year. He topped 100 innings in a season for the first time in his career in 2018, reaching Triple-A, pitching in the Futures Game and leading the organization in strikeouts in the process.
While he may no longer be the high-ceilinged potential frontline starter the Twins hoped he might be, there is a little more certainty that he can be a big league starter now that he's put in a full, healthy season. He has a solid four-pitch mix and can fill the strike zone with all of them using a clean delivery. He commands his low-90s fastball well and he can reach back for more velocity when he needs to. He didn't have a good feel for either breaking ball at the start of 2018, but then got on a roll, with his curve really taking a step forward. His curve pairs nicely with his fastball to create a good two-pitch, north-south profile, and he mixes in his sinking changeup effectively as well.
Those who have been with the organization since Thorpe's signing breathed a huge sigh of relief after his successful 2018 season. He might be more of a mid-to-back of the rotation starter now, but he's finally just about ready to impact the big league staff.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
If adversity is indeed a good teacher, then Thorpe might be the smartest pitcher in the Twins' system. The Australian lefty was humming along the lower levels of the Minors when an elbow injury shut him down late in 2014 and led to Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015. He missed all of that season and when he came down with mono as he was rehabbing in 2016, that season was lost as well. He returned and threw well enough in 2017 to get added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, then turned in a solid, and healthy, 2018 season in Double-A, getting invited to the Futures Game in the process.
Thorpe is looking more and more like the starting pitching prospect with a four-pitch mix he appeared to be before the injury and illness setbacks. His fastball will sit in the low 90s, touching a tick more at times, with solid command of it. His changeup is his best secondary weapon, an above-average offspeed pitch thrown with good sink. His two breaking balls are distinct pitches, with a tight slider and more of a pure curveball he mixes in effectively. He's generally around the strike zone, and it's his overall command has improved the further removed from the disabled list he gets.
A full, normal year without any further hiccups is just what the doctor ordered for the left-hander. He's getting closer to reaching his ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Things started out so well for this Australian import, with an outstanding debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 and a strong showing in his full-season debut the following year. That all seems like a distant memory for Thorpe, who hasn't thrown a competitive pitch since then. An elbow injury shut him down in 2014, then he tore his UCL in that elbow the next spring, resulting in Tommy John surgery. He was on his way back in 2016, when mono knocked him out of action yet again.
Thorpe was healthy enough to throw at instructs last fall, but because of how much he had been through, and because he had lost so much conditioning with his illness, the Twins just decided to let him pack it up and wait until 2017. Before he got sick, he was showing signs of getting back to the effective lefty with a four-pitch mix. His fastball can sit in the low-to-mid-90s and his best secondary pitch is his changeup, which he throws with good sink. He'll throw two distinct breaking pitches, with the curve slightly ahead of the slider, and he's generally around the strike zone.
Even with all of the lost time, Thorpe will pitch all of 2017 at age 21. With illness and injury behind him, there is reason for cautious optimism.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
With a very strong United States debut in 2013 and more than holding his own as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League the following season, Thorpe appeared on his way to developing into one of the better Australian pitchers in baseball. He avoided surgery when he hurt his elbow in 2014, but then tore his UCL the following spring. Resulting Tommy John surgery forced him to miss all of the 2015 season.
Just 20 for all of the 2016 season, there's time for Thorpe to get back to where he was. Still about potential and projection because of a lack of innings, he has the chance to have a very good four-pitch mix with good command of all of his weapons. His fastball sits in the low-90s and as he continues to add strength, there could be more in the tank. He showed glimpses of an at-least average changeup and a solid curve. He mixes in a slider as well and both breaking balls could be Major League average eventually.
Thorpe's rehab from surgery has gone well and he should get back to competitive pitching for a good chunk of this season. He'll have all four of his pitches at his disposal by the time he comes back.
In many ways, the 2014 season was a huge success for Thorpe, as the Australian native competed well as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League. But he suffered a setback in September when he sprained the UCL in his left elbow. Though he didn't need surgery then, he reinjured his elbow in Spring Training and will miss the 2015 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Before his injury, Thorpe was physically maturing and honing his four-pitch mix. He should pitch consistently in the low 90s with his fastball and offset it with an above-average changeup. He throws two breaking balls, adding a slider last year that he started to throw more often. Both have the chance to be solid average pitches, but they need to be tightened up, as his curve gets loopy at times. His command should improve with more experience.
Thorpe cites former big leaguer Graeme Lloyd as a mentor. If Thorpe can return to full health, the former Aussie reliever should be able to watch his pupil with pride in the middle of a big league rotation in the future.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Australia has produced a fair amount of big league talent over the years. If everything comes together, Thorpe could be the best to come from Down Under.
While it's early in his development, the early returns say the $500,000 the Twins spent to sign the lefty will be a bargain. Thorpe's fastball velocity has improved greatly, up into the 90s, and could end up in the 95 mph range when all is said and done. The velocity almost doesn't matter, as the movement on it makes it a formidable weapon. He might have a really good changeup to go along with that fastball, and he's tinkering with a pair of breaking balls. Minnesota really likes Thorpe's mentality and competitive mound presence.
Enthusiasm about Thorpe must be tempered with how far off he is, but it's hard not to be excited about the ceiling for this young southpaw.