One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Zack Thompson
Season stats: 1-1, 1 SV, 1 SVO, 2.08 ERA, 22 G, 1 GS, 34.2 IP, 20 H, 3 HR, 14 BB, 27 K, 5 IR, 3 IRS, 3.89 FIP, 0.981 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 0.7 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR
Statcast: .300 xwOBA, 6.3 barrel %, 87.0 exit velocity, 37.9 hard hit %, 19.9 K %, 10.3 BB %
Best Statcast category: Curve Spin (88th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (8th percentile)
Positives: Made his major league debut June 3 in the middle of the Cards/Cubs rivalry, allowing a run in four innings and picking up the save….had a run of 17.2 scoreless innings from June 18 to September 9 (he had some minor league stops in there)….struck out three or more in four appearances….lefties hit .146 and righties didn’t do much better (.176)….hitters had a .182 average away from Busch Stadium and he posted a 0.40 ERA on the road….had a 1.23 ERA in the second half….retired six of the seven major leaguers he faced in August, only walking one….had a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 September innings….leadoff hitters had a .425 OPS….batters had a .503 OPS if they took the first pitch….batters hit .172 even when they were ahead in the count….had a .423 OPS against when he was up in the count….kept batters to a .234 OPS when they were leading off an inning against him….had a 1.42 OPS in the last three innings….batters had a .439 OPS on his first 25 pitches….did not allow an earned run on zero, one, or two days’ rest….had a 1.59 ERA against the Cubs.
Negatives: Gave up five runs in five innings to the Pirates in his second appearance, which was his only start….all three homers allowed were to righties….all three homers came at Busch, where he allowed a .853 OPS….batters hit .318 against him in his one start….cleanup hitters had a 1.121 OPS….batters had a .704 OPS when there was one out in an inning….allowed a 1.263 OPS in 17 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position….allowed a .909 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 4.73 ERA at Memphis.
Overview: Thompson’s star has lagged a little behind Matthew Liberatore in the prospect rankings but it’s fair to say he had more impact on the 2022 Cards than his more famous counterpart. Shifting to the bullpen from his career starter track, he took to that role like a duck to water, often throwing up zeros when he was out on the mound. He did allow 60% of his inherited runners to score and as you can see above there were some issues with more important situations, but on the whole he was a strong addition to the bullpen. There was a lot of complaining when he went down when T.J. McFarland was activated (which was a fair criticism, even if it was the logical move for the club) and he spent time in Memphis while Genesis Cabrera scuffled, so his usage wasn’t ideal. He took advantage of his major league time, though, and has put himself squarely in the future plans of the front office.
Outlook: The question is, what are those plans? With the number of starters already on staff and the possibility that the club would sign another power arm, Thompson’s chances of being a starter in the next year or two would seem to be pretty limited. It feels like he’s quickly getting on the track of Trevor Rosenthal or Jordan Hicks or Cabrera, starters that get their break in the bullpen but never have a chance to get out of it. Still, having his arm in the bullpen next year (and the flexibility of his option status) would definitely be a benefit for the club.