This prospect might be Chicago's pitching gem

April 23rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MINNEAPOLIS -- If you look closely toward the White Sox horizon, even squint to get a clearer view of that far-off place beyond the current 3-19 miasma, then the outline of a young starting rotation becomes apparent.

Nick Nastrini (No. 8 prospect) made his second Major League start on Sunday in Chicago’s 8-2 loss to the Phillies, then was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte the following day. Righty Jonathan Cannon (No. 11 prospect) then set a career high with five strikeouts in the 7-0 losing effort in Monday’s series opener in Minnesota. Noah Schultz (the White Sox No. 2 prospect and No. 46 overall, according to MLB Pipeline) is one of the top left-handed prospects in the game with his 61 strikeouts, 11 walks and 2.33 ERA over 39 career innings in 13 starts between Single-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.

Let us of course not forget Garrett Crochet, who in his first year moving from the bullpen, was named the White Sox Opening Day starter and ranks third in the American League with 34 strikeouts. Then there’s .

Acquired from San Diego as part of the four-player return for Dylan Cease, Thorpe is considered by numerous pundits to have the best changeup in the Minor Leagues. He topped the Minors in 2023 with 182 strikeouts over 139 1/3 innings, and has posted a 0.50 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings during three starts for Double-A Birmingham in ’24.

Thorpe (who is the White Sox No. 3 prospect and No. 77 overall, per MLB Pipeline) explained the success of his changeup in a recent interview with

“It just plays off my fastball so well,” Thorpe said. “Just being able to throw it whenever I want to keep the hitters off balance is super helpful. The command I have with it helps a lot.

“I threw it in high school, and my freshman year in college I switched the grip a little bit and changed it to a four-seam fastball changeup grip just to mimic the fastball a little bit more -- it kind of took off from there. It’s kind of been my bread and butter ever since. Metrically, it’s a lot like a fastball and I [drop] the velo pretty well. It’s pretty hard for the hitters to pick up.”

The right-hander’s fastball tops out in the 91-94 mph range. Questions arise about Thorpe’s stuff being able to play a third time through the order at the Major League level, but Thorpe understands his repertoire and believes he can be an effective starter.

“Yeah, I think so,” Thorpe said. “It’s whatever. They can say what they say. Results kind of speak for themselves.

“I’m not a huge velo guy, but I can put it where I want it and it’s just kind of how I learned to pitch growing up. I’ll always have that with me.”

At some point later in the 2024 campaign, Thorpe could join Crochet and get the same big league opportunity as Nastrini and Cannon with the White Sox. The organization will watch their innings totals, but it’s a present goal for Thorpe. These names also represent just a handful of the upcoming young pitching talent.

Two trades in three months can be a little startling, after Thorpe was dealt from the Yankees to the Padres as part of the Juan Soto return on Dec. 7, and then sent to the White Sox on March 13. But pitching for the White Sox should provide Thorpe with years of stability if all goes as planned.

“It’s still baseball no matter where you are at, what team you are with. I go out and pitch and do what I can do,” Thorpe said. “It doesn’t matter what level I'm at.

“Each team kind of has their young set of players and I think the White Sox have a pretty good group. So, it will be cool the next couple of years to kind of build up and work into the big leagues with all these guys.”

Triple-A Charlotte
Infielder homered in five straight games, giving him eight on the year, before the 30-year-old veteran joined the White Sox in Minnesota on Monday. Shortstop , the White Sox top prospect and No. 8 overall, has a .665 OPS through 17 games.

High-A Winston-Salem
Shortstop , the White Sox top pick in the 2023 Draft and No. 7 prospect, is hitting .220 through 14 games with the Dash, but has a .371 on-base percentage. He has reached base in 23 straight games dating back to Aug. 13, 2023.

Single-A Kannapolis
Lucas Gordon has struck out 22 batters against six walks in 14 1/3 innings, allowing just a 2.51 ERA and a .143 opponents’ average. The southpaw was the team’s sixth-round pick in the 2023 Draft out of University of Texas.