The Tribe Tracker monitors players across the Pittsburgh Pirates organization who appeared in games with the Indianapolis Indians during the 2013 season, as well as prospects who may suit up for the Tribe during the 2014 campaign.
Visit IndyIndians.com for the complete list and set of player capsules!
Capsule 4: 11/19
This week features prospect Zack Thornton, a right-handed reliever who posted the second-best WHIP in the Arizona Fall League this year.
RHP — Zack Thornton
Zack Thornton quietly posted solid numbers for both the Indians and the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions. The right-handed reliever displayed a knack for keeping runners off the basepaths, especially this fall, and concluded his stint in the AFL with the second-best WHIP (0.75) of all league pitchers behind only Miami prospect Nick Wittgren (0.59). Thornton averaged nearly a strikeout per inning pitched as well, with 14 punchouts in 14.2 frames of work, and issued just three free passes for a stellar 4.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He concluded action in the Fall League having allowed an earned run in only three of his 11 total appearances.
Thornton’s climb through the Pirates’ chain in 2013 followed a similar path to fellow prospect Gregory Polanco, as the reliever saw action at three levels of the organization by the season’s end. After the righty recorded a 1.93 ERA (3 ER in 14.0 IP) in 10 games with High-A Bradenton, he split the final two-thirds of the season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, where he posted a 2.00 ERA (8 ER in 36.0 IP) in 19 contests with the Curve and a 3.91 ERA (11 ER in 25.1 IP) in 13 outings with the Tribe. Despite a higher ERA at the Triple-A level, Thornton pitched effectively for Indianapolis and his 11.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best among all staff hurlers who also tossed at least 25.0 innings.
Thornton’s path back to Indianapolis in 2014 will depend largely upon the reliever limiting damage when opponents find the scoreboard. Although the right-hander held his opposition to one earned run or fewer in nine of 13 games with the Indians, he was also tagged for two scores in two appearances of less than 3.0 frames, and three runs in both a 2.0-inning and 3.0-inning outing. These tough relief appearances inflated what would have been an otherwise impressive ERA for Thornton, who, aside from a three-run outing on July 14, rebounded to surrender just one earned run over his final six games (9.2 IP) with Indianapolis.