Tampa Bay Rays reliever Ryan Thompson is one the Houston Astros let get away.
On Tuesday, the Houston Astros entered the bottom of the eighth in Game Three of the ALCS trailing 5-2. To start off the inning, Jose Altuve singled off Tampa Bay reliever John Curtiss. Curtiss was then pulled and replaced by a lanky righty named Ryan Thompson. So, you might be asking right off the back, why does this matter? Well, it is because Thompson was a former Astros prospect who shouldn’t have been passed up.
The 6’5″ reliever towered at the mound while wearing the number 81. You would think a pitcher wearing such a high number would be some minor leaguer brought up for a team very short handed. Well, that is exactly what happened, and he was ready for a revenge tour.
In the next at-bat, Michael Brantley singled to left and Altuve advanced to second. Here is where we saw the true potential of Thompson. He throws three pitches that look the exact same until they reach the plate. His sinker-slider combo offers a ton of break, and even his four seam fastball breaks much more than normal. To top off the lanky, tall movement, he has an unorthodox style of pitching that makes him a sidewinder. He has all the mechanics to rattle a hitter, and he did just that.
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With Alex Bregman up and no outs, you’d expect a big hit that would bring in the two baserunners, but Bregman faced six straight sinkers and then struck out swinging on a slider. Carlos Correa was the next batter and faced about the exact same pitches, but ended up barely making contact on one and getting an infield single. This juiced the bases. Thompson was pulled, and the Rays would escape the inning in the next two at bats.
It didn’t seem like Thompson dominated did it? You could think that, but he was making professional, veteran players chase pitches that they had no chance of hitting. His movement threw the hitters out of whack, and he struck out the guy who was second in MVP voting last year.
So, how did the Astros lose a guy who fit the perfect model of a sidewinder? It was through the Rule 5 Draft. The Astros chose not to add Thompson to the 40-man roster and left him to be picked up by the Rays in Dec. 2018. He had missed his 2018 Minor League season due to Tommy John surgery, but the Rays knew there was something special there. We should expect some good years from him.