Pittsburgh Pirates: Opportunity Knocking for Zach Thompson in 2022

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 21: Zach Thompson #74 of the Miami Marlins pitches during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park on August 21, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 21: Zach Thompson #74 of the Miami Marlins pitches during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park on August 21, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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When the 2022 MLB season finally rolls around opportunity will be knocking with the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson

Prior to the expiration of the CBA and the start of Major League Baseball’s work stoppage the Pittsburgh Pirates were busy both on the trade market, as well as in free agency. The biggest move the Pirates had made prior to the work stoppage was the trade of Gold Glove Award winning catcher Jacob Stallings.

In exchange for Stallings the Pittsburgh Pirates received a strong package of three players. This package included a pair of high-ceiling prospects in outfielder Connor Scott and pitcher Kyle Nicolas.

The third piece the Pittsburgh Pirates received was heel one MLB ready player that Miami sent their way. This was right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson. When the 2022 season begins opportunity will be knocking for Thompson.

2022 will be Thompson’s age-28 season. Thompson is a late bloomer as he did not make his MLB debut until last season. With the Marlins last season, he posted a 3.24 ERA and a 3.69 FIP in 75 innings pitched across 26 outings, 14 of which were starts.

Thompson walked 8.9% of batters faced, struck out 21.0% and allowed just 6 home runs (0.72 HR/9). He limited opposing batters to a .222 batting average and generated ground balls at a strong 43.3% rate.

With plenty of questions surrounding the Pirate starting rotation entering 2022, Thompson should have every opportunity to earn a spot in the starting rotation. Honestly, Thompson will likely enter spring training with a rotation spot being his to lose.

One thing that drove Thompson’s success in 2021 and can help lead to further success in 2022 is his four-seamed/cut fastball duo. His four-seamer was in the 92nd percentile of baseball in fastball spin rate last season and generated a 24.8% whiff rate. Thompson’s cutter generated a 21.3% whiff rate, and opposing batters hit just .186 while slugging .284 against the pitch.

His curveball and changeup  were also strong pitches. Thompson’s curveball generated a 36.9% whiff rate and opponents hit .213 while slugging .298 off the pitch. As for his changeup, it limited the opposition to a .176 average and a .294 slugging percentage, while generating a whiff rate of 43.4%.

If Thompson can replicate his pitching repertoire from 2021 then he will bring a strong four-pitch mix to the table in 2022. Having four pitches that perform at a better than league average level gives Thompson the potential to seize the opportunity he will be given in 2022 and run with it.

This strong four-pitch mixed helped Thompson limit the opposition to a 34.4% hard hit rate last season which was in the 82nd percentile of baseball. Opposing batters averaged an exit velocity of 87.6 MPH off of Thompson’s pitches, which was also better than league average. Limiting the amount of quality contact allowed also played a large role in Thompson’s success last season and is something that can help set him up for continued success in 2022.

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It is not unheard of to see players break through and establish themselves later in their careers. This is what Thompson will be hoping to do in 2022 as he looks to build on a strong debut in 2021. With the current state of the Pirate pitching staff he should get every opportunity to do just that this season.

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