Should Drew Thorpe break camp with the Padres?


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Many San Diego Padres prospects raised their stock during 2024 Spring Training, and some made a compelling case to break camp with the big league club. 

Jackson Merrill and Graham Pauley have certainly garnered fans’ attention with their bats this spring. Both players’ performances give them, at the very least, a stronger case for making the opening-day roster. 

Another Friar farmhand who has continued to make a strong push for an opening-day roster spot is Cal Poly alum, Drew ThorpeThorpe, one of the headline names San Diego received in the Juan Soto deal, not only remains in camp with the Padres but continues to impress fans and coaches alike—so much so that the big right-hander has worked his way into the starting rotation conversation. 


Pitching Profile. 

When discussing Drew Thorpe, it’s important to first understand what his ceiling is. Thorpe won’t ever be an Ace of the Padres Pitching Staff; and that’s totally fine. He’s an arm who projects a quality No.3 to No.5 starting pitcher,  and contrary to what some Padres fans have said, that’s an extremely valuable arm/player. Teams work tirelessly to find a quality arm like him. 

Credit: Padres

Thorpe is a five-pitch mix arm that relies more heavily on the fastball, changeup, and slider; the best of the bunch undoubtedly is the changeup. 

Serving as his out-pitch, it sits at 82-84 mph and gets swings & misses at an extremely high rate both inside and outside the zone. The key to the pitch’s success is Thorpe’s arm action, which makes it deceptive, and the pitches break & fade, which helps it fade and avoids hitters’ barrels. The changeup is the biggest reason he generated a 32.4% K% in 2023 while also having a SwSrt% of 18.6 in High Single-A & 20.21% in Double-A, and 39.7% Whiff%. 

If there is an “issue” that folks have with Thorpe, it would be with his fastball, which sits anywhere from 91 to 95 mph. It’s a fair concern, and in truth, it could limit his overall ceiling due to how important velocity is to the modern game. Still, in his first full MiLB season, he gained 2-4 mph of velocity while in the Yankees system last season. With full access to the Padres Biomechanics Lab and the coaching of Ruben Niebla, it’s still possible his fastball’s velocity could continue to rise. 

However, even if that fastball velocity stays where it is, it should be more than effective due to its shape and the run it generates. Thorpe does an exceptional job at spotting his fastball, as when he does opt to throw it, he lives in the shadows & corners of the zone where hitters can’t do damage as frequently.   

The concern about the fastball should become even smaller for folks when you consider that he throws his slider, which is arguably his second-best pitch, at nearly the same rate as the fastball. Thorpe’s slide sits in the mid-80s; its extra velocity gives it good depth and vertical movement. It’s not an absurdly flashy pitch, but it projects as above league average. 

His final two pitches, a high-80s cutter and low-80s sweeping curveball are used more often to steal early-count strikes. Again, they’re league-average pitches at best, but they’re good enough to keep hitters honest and guessing. 


Spring Training & Opening Day Likelihood. 

Thorpe’s time on the mound this Spring has been limited, yet he has impressed in that small sample size. In just three innings of work, he’s posted a 1.27 FIP, 2.34 xFIP, and punched out 41.7% of the hitters he’s faced. His most impressive showing came vs. the Brewers on March 1, where he worked two scoreless innings, striking out four and walking none. 

Despite his limited time on the mound in spring training, he has had some impressive performances on the Padres’ backfields in Peoria, where he has again dazzled coaches and fans alike. The question is, will it be enough for the big right-hander to break camp with San Diego?

Admittedly, when accessing Thorpe’s spring, there is not a ton to go off.  Still, you can make a justifiable argument that he could start opening day with San Diego.

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As established, Thorpe is a high-floor/ceiling player. He has shown he knows how to pitch and get the most out of his stuff, even if it lacks the electricity that other pitching prospects possess. As a former college arm who shoved in the minors last season, there is little more for him to prove at age 23 in the MiLB levels.

Still, while there is a chance that Thorpe will break camp with San Diego, it feels like a lower probability. Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez appear to be the two young arms that the Padres will ride with to start the season. They have seen the most starts and been given the most opportunities to this point. 

Yes, Vasquez stumbled in his last outing on March 5. Still, again, given his prior MLB service time and experience, San Diego appears more inclined to give him the first opportunity in the rotation over Thorpe. 

While the excitement surrounding Thorpe is palpable, it feels as if starting the season in Double-A San Antonio is the most likely result for Thorpe comes spring’s end. Look for the former Mustang to make his MLB debut closer to mid to late May of this season, or if one of either Brito or Vasquez should prove incapable of providing quality starts in the No. 4 or No. 5 spot. 

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