Toby Hyde, Contributor
Friday night, the Mets acquired minor-league relief pitcher Zack Thornton and a player to be named later for 1B Ike Davis.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the second player is “fairly significant,” which means that a full analysis of the trade will have to wait until that player is known.
Thornton is sinker/slider reliever with a funky motion who generated more ground balls in 2013 than he ever had in his professional career. He’s a big right-hander, listed at 6’3″, 220 pounds, who will turn 26 on May 19. The Mets will be his third organization. He originally signed with the A’s as a 23rd round pick out of Oregon in 2010 and was traded to the Pirates for RHP Chris Resop on November 30, 2012.
According to Brooks Baseball, he owns a three-pitch arsenal, with a sinker that averages 91 mph, a slider at 84 and a changeup at 84.
Thornton split last year between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
In Altoona, he ran a 45/7 K/BB ratio in 36 innings. In his 17 outings in Triple-A this year, and last, he owns a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings with 29 hits allowed, five walks and 39 strikeouts. In percentage terms, he fanned 28% of opposing hitters and walked only 3.6% of opponents.
Thornton was a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions in 2013 in the Arizona Fall League with Mets farmhands, including Jeurys Familia, Hansel Robles, Cody Satterwhite, Cam Maron, Aderlin Rodriguez and Cory Vaughn.
Heading into the Rule 5 draft last year, Baseball America listed him under the “Players Who Can Help Now” category and described him as a “Reliever with a funky delivery gets loads of groundballs and features excellent control” in the publication’s Rule 5 Draft preview.
Thornton took his groundball tendencies to new heights or perhaps new grass-level lows in 2013. After groundball percentages of 43% in 2011, mostly in Burlington in the Midwest League with Oakland and 45% in 2012 mostly with Stockton, he forced groundballs on 47% of opponents’ plate appearances in Altoona with the Pirates and then 51% of the time in Triple-A. The league average groundball rate was 42% in the Eastern League and 43% in the International League.
A shoulder injury in his junior year at Oregon held him to 23.1 innings and a 6.17 ERA, but he bounced back to put up a 3.40 ERA over 12 starts and five relief appearances as a senior to earn honorable mention All-Pac 10.
Thornton is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster, so the team now has an open spot.
He should head to Triple-A Las Vegas where he will hop into an immediate competition with Vic Black to be the next right-handed reliever called up to reinforce the Mets’ bullpen.
He’s on Twitter at @Thortythort30. Be nice.