Dylan Thompson: How a Probable Starter Became an All-Star Reliever
By: Ari Ross
Dylan Thompson was going to be a starter.
Thompson had finished the 2016 season as a starter with the Sioux Falls Canaries, and coming into the season, Mike Meyer and Ben Moore had penciled Thompson in their rotation.
But the first-time Meyer saw Thompson in-person, he had second thoughts. “My initial thought was: this guy's a devastating reliever, and if he can keep velocity in the mid-90s,” Meyer said, “He's going to get signed by an organization.”
Three years earlier Meyer had the same thought.
John Brebbia was a starter for the Canaries in 2014. And though Brebbia was pitching well, Meyer, the Birds’ pitching coach at the time, wanted to move Brebbia to the bullpen.
“I went to our manager [Steve Shirley],” Meyer said, “And I told him 'I think we need to move this guy into the bullpen because I feel like this guy can pitch in the big leagues.’”
Just three years later, Brebbia proved Meyer right.
On May 28, 2017, Brebbia made his major-league debut for the St. Louis Cardinals. He faced one batter, inducing a lineout to end the bottom of the eighth inning.
So, when the Laredo Lemurs folded, and the Canaries picked up Troy Marks, Thompson was going to the bullpen.
“I always want the ball,” Thompson said, “But last year I was really effective out of the bullpen and we talked about it and I feel like that was probably the best move and as the season goes on, it kind of looks like the best move.”
In 2014, after moving to the bullpen, Brebbia went 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched. This season with the Canaries, Thompson is 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched.
Out of the bullpen, Thompson has put together his best season as a pro, striking out 20 and walking just eight batters over 24 relief appearances. Thompson’s 1.95 ERA leads the team, having allowed just six earned runs over his 24 appearances.
“I'm really surprised and pleasantly surprised that he's been this consistent for us out of the bullpen,” Meyer said, “He's been the guy we can count on anytime we're in a situation; let's get Thompson in there because he's going to get us out of this jam.”
And to top it all off, Thompson was selected to the 2017 American Association All-Star team, the lone Canary to get the nod.
“My first thought was no way,” Thompson said, “I remember I woke up and he [Meyer] texted me, and he was like, 'Hey man, Congrats! You've made the All-Star team' and I was like what?”
“It was definitely a goal,” Thompson said, “I've always wanted to be an All-Star, you know, it's kind of crazy how it's already happened…I've never won an All-Star before or anything like that my whole life plan. So, it's really a special treat.”
Thompson will pitch in the 2017 American Association All-Star Game in Ottawa on July 25 and when he returns to Sioux Falls after the break, his expectations will remain the same as the Canaries continue their playoff push.
“Just come out every single day ready to play hard, ready to play for my team and just try to win as many ballgames as possible,” Thompson said.
But Thompson may not be donning a Canaries uniform for much longer, at least according to Meyer. “I think he's probably going to be the first of hopefully many that we get [purchased] over our time here in Sioux Falls,” Meyer said.
"I definitely want the promotion, of course…but that's something I can't really control,” Thompson said, “I'm just trying to have as much fun and do the best I possibly can and hopefully it all works out at the end."
“He deserves it, he's still a young kid and his stuff plays at every level,” Meyer said, “And now he's pitching mentally at a high level, not just physically. I still don't think he's hit his peak, I think he still has things he can learn that he can improve.”
“It would be a big-time surprise for me,” Meyer said, “If Dylan Thompson wasn't pitching in the High-A or Double-A here soon."