Drew Thorpe Flashes Excellent Changeup, Command in MLB Debut

Chicago White Sox prospect Drew Thorpe flaunted his 80-grade changeup during his first career start.

Drew Thorpe of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch during the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 11: Drew Thorpe #33 of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch during the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on June 11, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the Chicago White Sox turned the ball over to a rookie making his MLB debut for the fourth time already this season. This time, though, it came with even higher expectations, as Just Baseball’s 43rd-ranked prospect toed the rubber to make his first career start against the Seattle Mariners.

Drew Thorpe has had a wild year. He was named MLB Pipeline’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year after an unreal 2023 season in the Yankees farm system. He was then sent to the Padres over the winter as the headline prospect in the massive Juan Soto blockbuster before being flipped again to the White Sox as the top prospect in the Dylan Cease deal.

After all that moving around this offseason, all Thorpe has done in 2024 is continue to show just how consistent and impressive he can be every time he takes the mound. Through 11 Double-A starts in Birmingham, Thorpe produced a 1.35 ERA and 0.87 WHIP across 60 innings pitched with essentially just one subpar outing all season.

It became very clear by May that Thorpe had nothing left to learn or prove at the Double-A level and, frankly, in the minor leagues. With the White Sox often being hesitant to promote top pitchers to Triple-A, due to Charlotte being an extremely hitter-friendly park and the team having such a lack of talent at the MLB level, it was only a matter of time until Thorpe got the call.

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With a big league rotation spot open heading into this week, Thorpe jumped Triple-A entirely, like many expected him to do, and was called up to make his debut for the White Sox.

Thorpe took the mound for the White Sox Tuesday night and showed plenty of what fans can expect to see from him moving forward. He came out firing and struck out Julio Rodríguez on his 80-grade changeup for his first career MLB strikeout.

He may not have overwhelming stuff to strike out tons of hitters on any given night, but Thorpe’s blend of five pitches led by the changeup that he commands at an elite level provides plenty of excitement. His command on Tuesday was below the level we’ve come to expect from him, but he still flashed plenty of signs that portend well for his promising future as an MLB starter.

While his fastball wasn’t quite as sharp in terms of location as it has been, he still did not allow a single barrel in his MLB debut, limiting hard contact and getting ahead of hitters frequently. Unfortunately, he was unable to finish off two hitters in a row after getting ahead, as he allowed two consecutive doubles to Luke Raley and Mitch Garver. He left a fastball over the plate for Raley, while Garver simply put a great swing on a solid pitch.

Another run scored due to poor defense in the third, but Thorpe regathered himself and bounced back well for his final two innings of the night. He recorded his fourth and final strikeout of the evening on a changeup that looked like it was legitimately floating right into the bottom part of the zone against Dominic Canzone.

Aside from just the lethal changeup, Thorpe worked his cutter, slider, and curveball effectively in his first start, and it looks like his cutter variation that he developed with the Yankees in 2023 will become a real weapon for him. With a similar grip and profile but 3 mph more velocity, it plays well with the slider and should be an asset, particularly against righties.

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The right-hander has been excellent in his career against left-handed hitters, with reverse career MiLB splits. Due to the dominance of his changeup, Thorpe is not afraid to throw his best pitch to both sides of the plate. And while he went to the changeup or fastball nearly 70% of the time in his debut, he did not allow a hit against any of his other three offerings.

Being able to mix and match by throwing pitches in unfamiliar counts and sequences is how Thorpe has thrived throughout the minor leagues. He’ll continue to do just that, as he showed in his debut that’ll throw first-pitch changeups, down-in-the-count sliders or cutters, and work all parts of the zone.

All in all, Thorpe lasted five innings, striking out four, walking two, and giving up two runs (one earned).

While far from perfect, Thorpe’s first start still inspired plenty of confidence in his abilities moving forward. He did not look overmatched at any point against a solid Mariners team and should get the opportunity to remain with the White Sox for the rest of the season and beyond. He is one of many pitching prospects that will be part of the rotation very soon.

The White Sox 2024 season is essentially over, but the second half of the year will be focused on giving experience to young prospects and seeing what they can bring to the table. Thorpe will be a huge part of the future pitching staff in Chicago.

For more on Drew Thorpe, here is what Aram Leighton had to say about the young right-hander on Just Baseball’s latest Top 100 Prospects list:

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43. Drew Thorpe – RHP – Chicago White Sox

Height/Weight: 6’3″, 190 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (61), 2022 (NYY) | ETA: 2024


Drafted in the second round for his fantastic changeup and track record of throwing strikes, Thorpe worked at the Yankees complex rather than making his pro debut in 2022 and saw his entire arsenal make a leap in his first pro season. After posting some of the best numbers in the Minor Leagues, he was a key part of the Juan Soto return for the Padres.


After the Yankees selected Thorpe, they worked with him to gain some velocity and improve his breaking ball shape. He saw his fastball jump a tick, now averaging a hair over 92 MPH with pretty good carry. A bigger frame with a low-effort delivery, there’s some hope that Thorpe can find another tick.

The bread and butter for the right-hander is his plus plus changeup that mirrors his fastball until the last 15 feet, when it fades with lethal arm-side movement and 10 MPH of separation from his fastball. His short, over-the-top arm action makes all of his offerings a tunneling nightmare for hitters, especially the changeup.

Opponents hit just .125 against the pitch with a 53% strikeout rate and 33% swinging strike rate. When hitters do make contact, it is often weak or on the ground, running a 63% ground ball rate with the offering.

While nearly half of his strikeouts came via the changeup in 2023, Thorpe’s slider has become his go-to strikeout pitch against right-handed hitters. There are two variations of Thorpe’s slider that could qualify as two different pitches, one at 83-85 MPH with more sweep and the other at 81-83 MPH with gyro break.

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Against both iterations of his breaking ball, opponents hit just .180 with a 45% strikeout rate and 23% swinging strike rate. While he will mix in some breaking balls to lefties, he predominately uses it to right-handed hitters.

Rounding out Thorpe’s arsenal is an average cutter that he will mix in to left-handed hitters to disrupt the fastball, changeup sequence. It features some late bite and dive, picking up plenty of ground balls (60%) when located well, but can get hit hard when he leaves it up. While not a big whiff pitch, it’s a good taste breaker and weak contact inducer.


Plus command of an assortment of offerings including one of the best changeups in the Minor Leagues, Thorpe is easily the highest floor arm with the ability to miss enough bats to provide middle-of-the-rotation upside, especially if he sees his stuff jump another tick.

He will likely begin the season at Double-A or Triple-A, but depending on the Yankees’ starting pitching situation next season, Thorpe could be polished enough to make a case out of camp and is already ramped up for a big league workload after tossing 139 1/3 innings in 2023.