No. 5: Jake Thompson, RHP
Jake Thompson was selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB draft (the Tigers' first selection) out of Rockwall-Heath HS in TX. He was the 91st overall pick of the 2012 draft, and the Tigers managed to sign him away from a commitment to TCU with a $531,800 signing bonus. After signing, Thompson was sent to the rookie league GCL Tigers, where he made 7 starts while pitching on an innings limit, which is typical of prep pitchers in their first season of professional baseball. Thompson was excellent in his first season, totaling 28 1/3 innings while allowing only 6 earned runs (1.91 ERA), 14 hits & 10 walks (0.85 WHIP), and striking out 31. While this is a really small sample size, it's still impressive that the 18 year old was able to be so dominant in his first season. While he was considered a reach at #91 overall by some, he has shown, at least to this point, that the pick was not a wasted one.
Thompson is a big, physically-imposing pitcher that stands 6'4" and weighs in at 235lbs. He's a good athlete, and is very well put together. He has a solid build throughout his entire body, and it shows in his delivery. He has a simple and repeatable delivery, highlighted by good drive from his lower half, but it's clear that he lacks experience on the mound (hey, he's 18). He throws a 3 pitch mix, with a fastball, slider, and changeup. As you might expect, the fastball is the most impressive of the 3. He sits in the low 90's with nice heavy life, which allows him to generate a good amount of of groundballs when he commands it down in the strike zone. He can run it up to 94-95 with some consistency, and with the late life it becomes a swing and miss pitch. He has minimal projection remaining on the pitch, since he's already so developed physically, but I would go as far as saying that it's logical to expect him to gain a tick or so on his fastball as he matures more, maybe to the point of sitting 92-94 and touching 96 or so. His slider is his primary secondary pitch, and it's a pretty good one. The slider will flash as a plus pitch on occasion, showing really nice, tight spin and good two-plane (horizontal and vertical) break. When it's on, it can be an out pitch for Thompson vs. both righties and lefties. He also throws a changeup, but it lags behind the other two offerings at this point. He rarely threw it in high school, so he's just now being forced to develop it. While it won't get to the plus level that his fastball and slider offer, it should end up as an average pitch in time, giving Thompson a legitimate 3 pitch mix. As we've established, he's a physical guy, and looks the part of a major league pitcher. Given his repertoire and potential, he looks like a future #3 starter at his peak, who can eat innings while still being successful at the MLB level.
Thompson was very successful in 2012, showing much more polish and pitchability than had previously been thought that he would. Combining that with his stuff, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't start 2013 in Class A-West Michigan, pitching every 5th day in their rotation. He'll pitch the 2013 season at just 19 years old, so I wouldn't expect him to move particularly quickly, but you never really know. As I said above, his ceiling for me is that of an innings-eating #3 starter. He lacks upside beyond that because he doesn't have a truly dominating single pitch, nor does he have a particularly vast arsenal. Now, he projects to have 3 average or better pitches, with 2 of them having plus potential, which is certainly nothing to scoff at. All I saying here is that he's not a future ace, but there's only maybe 5-6 of those "future ace" types in all of the minor leagues. If all goes well, he looks like he could be ready for the big leagues towards the end of 2015, and then push for a rotation spot in 2016.