Aaron Thompson has often been obscured by one of the best draft classes in recent memory. But the former first-round choice of the Florida Marlins is off to a strong start at Double-A Jacksonville, has a career 4.01 minor league ERA and scouts like his competitive nature and how he sets up the count.
Thompson has been inspired by his fellow 2005 Florida draftees. Two of five have already had major-league call-ups including Chris Volstad, 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in six starts this season while holding hitters to just a .192 batting average with 32 strikeouts. Volstad made the jump to the big league club in early July of '08, an occasion that Thompson, his roommate since their rookie ball days, was able to witness.
"Can't help but be jealous," said Thompson, who happened to be in the area rehabbing from a shoulder injury, "but it made me want [to be here] more."
Making the jump from the amateur to the professional level can have adverse effects on a player. A gifted pitcher who throws 95 miles per hour in high school may not necessarily know how to set up a hitter, a must against professional hitters.
Thompson, who has been working to develop his secondary pitches so that he is more confident in approaching hitters, now understands the difference.
"It is the mindset," Thompson said, "how to read a situation and how to pitch instead of just throwing. When the game changes, I need to change [my approach] and make quick judgments."
Thompson's journey through the minor leagues hit a roadblock when Thompson dealt with shoulder issues last year. Yet the Marlins awarded Thompson by sending him to the Arizona Fall League, a privilege for only five players in each organization. Thompson, who has pitched almost exclusively as a starter, worked primarily out of the bullpen.
"I made adjustments out of the bullpen, so now I could pitch in the bullpen if needed," he said.
The versatility Thompson now brings to the Marlins could get him a ticket to Miami sooner than originally thought.