Prospect of the Day: Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers promoted prospect Tyler Thornburg to the majors this past Tuesday and gave him his first major league start. He went 5.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up seven hits and five runs on four homers, but he didn't walk anyone and struck out two. He was sent back to the minors after the game, but he is one of the best prospects in the system and will certainly get more opportunities.
Thornburg began 2011 with Low-A Wisconsin in the Midwest League and dominated, posting a 1.57 ERA with a 76/25 K/BB in 69 innings with just 49 hits allowed. Promoted to High-A Brevard County at mid-season, he posted a 3.57 ERA with an 84/33 K/BB in 68 innings with just 45 hits allowed. Overall he posted a 160/58 K/BB in 137 innings last year, holding hitters to a combined .195 mark at the two levels.
Moved up to Double-A Huntsville for 2012, he went 8-1, 3.00 in 13 starts before his promotion to the majors, posting a 71/24 K/BB and just 57 hits allowed with a .212 batting average against. He has nothing left to prove in Double-A, and was sent to Triple-A Nashville after Tuesday's start.
Thornburg is a right-handed hitter and thrower, listed at 6-0, 190, born September 29, 1988, in Houston, Texas. His delivery has some over-the-top funk and some scouts worry about his durability, though so far it hasn't been much of a problem and the Brewers see him as a starter. He's been clocked as high as 98 MPH in relief, but as a starter in the minors he worked at 89-93. He averaged 92 in his major league debut, a touch higher than the reports that were coming out of Huntsville. His changeup draws strong reviews, and he's also developed a solid, if erratic, curveball. He's aggressive about using the fastball, but the Brewers believe his arsenal is diverse enough for him to start as long as his command is strong, which it usually is.
Thornburg's performance metrics in the minors have been solid, though not quite spectacular, which matches the scouting reports quite well. Although he didn't give up many home runs in the minors (just 16 in 235 career innings), he is a fly ball pitcher. When he makes a location mistake, it is usually high in the zone. We'll have to see if excessive gopher balls become a theme for him in the majors. That concern aside, Thornburg has a decent shot to be a mid-rotation starter, and could always return to relief if necessary.