Zach Thompson Made an Important Change to His Mindset in 2021

ST. PETERSBURG – The Pirates might have gotten Zach Thompson at the right time in his career.

The 28-year-old right-hander was one of three players acquired from the Miami Marlins in last November’s Jacob Stallings trade — with prospects RHP Kyle Nicolas and OF Connor Scott also coming over in the deal.

Thompson made his MLB debut in 2021, putting up a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings of work, eventually moving into the rotation.

There is reason for skepticism with those results. The mixture of a small sample size from an older player making his MLB debut, plus a 4.65 xFIP, indicated that Thompson might not maintain the better ERA. Thompson credits the emergence last year to figuring out who he is as a pitcher.

“A lot of guys, it takes them awhile to figure that out, or they figure it out early,” said Thompson. “It varies from guy to guy. I think I just need to figure out who I am, how I pitch, what my stuff is, and that’s what the main consistency is.”

Thompson was drafted by the White Sox in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. He didn’t make it past A-ball until 2019, and the results in Triple-A that year as a 25-year-old reliever weren’t good. At the end of the 2020 season, Thompson was still trying to figure things out from a mechanical standpoint with the White Sox.

He was released at the end of the 2020 season, and signed with the Marlins in less than a month.

Thompson said he was “all over the place” with how he pitched at that point. That changed in Triple-A after some advice he received from some of his fellow Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp teammates.

“Preston Guilmet and Brett Eibner were my guys in Triple-A,” said Thompson. “And they were just telling me ‘Your mindset when you get out there, the guy you’re facing is trying to take food off your table. You have to go out there and trust your stuff, and you have to take the food off their table.’ So, it’s this aggressive mentality.”

My first impression of Thompson is that he does not naturally have this aggressive mentality. That first impression I’m referring to was Thompson reciting a daily dad joke to all of the reporters in the clubhouse. I’m not saying that’s the main reason I wouldn’t classify him as not having an aggressive mentality. I also wouldn’t say it’s not not the reason.

Thompson seems to be a light-hearted guy all around. He was on the IL with right nerve inflammation in Tampa. That wasn’t enough to keep him from running routes while throwing a vortex football in the outfield prior to the games. If his baseball career didn’t work out, this is a guy who was planning on becoming a doctor, and already doing some of the legwork as a hobby.

That’s probably where he’d be without that advice from Guilmet and Eibner.

“That kind of reinforced my mindset of how I’ll be aggressive when I’m pitching on the mound,” said Thompson. “And then once I got to the big leagues, we were able to define what my pitches did. I already had this aggressive, go after it mindset, and they were able to analytically break down here’s where you pitch well, here’s how you pitch well, just throw it.”

On the surface, it would look like the Pirates may have been wrong, and Thompson regressed this year. He has a 4.47 ERA and a 4.51 xFIP in 54.1 innings. If you remove his first month, Thompson has a 2.48 ERA and a 4.27 xFIP in 40 innings.

Thompson and the Pirates were trying to alter some things, leading to that rough first month. The changes were abandoned after the first month, as Thompson said the performance with the changes were good, but it clashed with his pitching style. He got back to the approach and mindset that was working in Miami, and has shown those much better results since.

“You really need to figure out who you are as a pitcher, and stick with it,” said Thompson. “Some changes can be good, and you always have to listen and be ready to learn, but as long as you have that steady foundation of knowing how to pitch and who you are as a pitcher.”

If Thompson has figured out that he is the pitcher we saw in Miami last year, and the pitcher we’ve seen since the start of May in Pittsburgh, then the Pirates got him at the right time.


Williams: The Major League Baseball Mindset

How Mitch Keller’s New Sinker Complements His Other Pitches

JT Brubaker Discusses the Short Memory Needed in the Majors

Pirates Roundtable: When Did Realize You Would Reach the Majors?

Zach Thompson Made an Important Change to His Mindset in 2021

Jack Suwinski Put in Work to Gain an Edge

Bligh Madris Discusses Core Value of Perseverance and His Power Increase

Diego Castillo is Hitting a Lot of Homers and Very Little Else

Cam Vieaux Finding Success With His Slider in the Bullpen

Yerry De Los Santos Impressive So Far in His MLB Debut

+ posts

Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Good article👏👏 Get healthy soon Mr. Thompson👍


A very informative article and very timely. Going 4.2 IP, 2 ER yesterday in his first start back from the IL against a strong Brewers lineup was what the Pirates were hoping for. After the Friday game, Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson helped save the pitching staff.

With the depth and quality of youth on the position player side, if the Pirates can cobble together a decent Rotation, there could be a .500 season as early as 2023.

Pirates Prospects Daily


Latest articles

Latest comments