Daryl Thompson was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round of the 2003 draft, out of high school in La Plata, Maryland. He was considered to be an athletic, projectable young hurler who didn't go higher in the draft due to his 6-1, 170 pound frame. But he threw strikes and seemed to have some feel for pitching, and was a young high school senior at age 17. He caught my eye for some reason and I picked him for the Twins in the Shadow Draft that year. Thompson pitched very well in rookie ball, with a 2.15 ERA and an 18/11 K/BB in 46 innings in the Gulf Coast League...a low strikeout rate, but good control. In the 2004 book, I wrote "at this point he is just a name, but for some reason my sleeper beeper goes off with this one, although I can't quantify why this is so." I gave him a Grade C.
The Expos were impressed enough with Thompson that they skipped him past short-season ball and had him pitch a full year in the Sally League at age 18 in 2004. He did not perform that well, going 4-9, 5.08. But his strikeout rate picked up, with a 79/30 K/BB in 103 innings, 117 hits allowed. He was getting his fastball consistently into the 90-92 range, and his secondary stuff was starting to sharpen. I left him at Grade C in the 2005 book, but again my intiution was going full-tilt on him. I wrote "I don't know why, and I'm not telling you to pay any special attention to this, but I still think he's going to develop, even with a Grade C."
Thompson returned to Savannah in 2005 and was much more effective, with a 3.35 ERA and a 48/24 K/BB in 54 innings, 46 hits allowed. However, he was limited to just 11 starts by a labrum injury, most unfortunate. He had his fastball up to 93-94 MPH before getting hurt, and was showing much improved command of his breaking stuff. His medical reports were positive, his surgery considered a success, and I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2006 book.
The early part of 2006 was spent in rehab, and he began pitching in June for Vermont in the New York-Penn League. After four rough starts, he was involved in the Austin Kearns trade, going to Cincinnati. The Reds sent him to the Gulf Coast League, where he posted a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. Although he appeared healthy, his velocity was down into the 80s, and it appeared that the labrum thing might have ruined him. I kept him in the book for 2007 but gave him a Grade C.
Thompson returned to full duty in '07, starting off 5-0, 0.96 in five starts for Class A Dayton, then going 9-5, 3.77 with a 97/31 K/BB in 105 innings for Sarasota in the Florida State League. Solid numbers, though his velocity was still in the 86-89 range last year. However, his curveball and changeup were very solid, he threw strikes most of the time, and showed a good feel for pitching. He gave up 19 homers, not a good marker, and the velocity drop made him a Grade C yet again heading into 2008...
But things are different this year. Thompson has his fastball back, 90-95 MPH. His secondary pitches are now fully refined. He was excellent in Double-A, with a 1.76 ERA and 56/14 K/BB in 61 innings for Chattanooga, 44 hits allowed. Recently promoted to Triple-A, he's 2-0, 4.26 in three starts with a 16/2 K/BB in 19 innings, 18 hits allowed. He just made his major league debut, throwing five shutout innings, though he'll have to improve the 2/4 K/BB ratio. Given his past track record, I think it likely that the command will come around.
Thompson was under the radar for a long time, but he's made a successful transition from young athlete with a good arm to professional pitcher. He has his stuff back, and perhaps not having his best fastball in '06 and '07 helped him learn to use his other pitches better. Still just 22 years old, he could likely use some additional consolidation time, and I do not expect him to take the National League by storm. But he's a personal favorite and I am rooting for him.
As for why I liked him so much intuitively, I don't know. Many of my intuition calls fail to pan out, of course...just look at my Shadow Draft lists, they are full of failures...but this one looks good right now, and just picking him out of the mass of high school pitchers as a sleeper in 2003 is something I am proud of. I suspect that such "intuitions" are a form of subconcious pattern recognition.