Professional drafts have been kind to UK recently. Josh Allen went in the first round of the NFL Draft. P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson are seen to be first round picks during the NBA Draft on June 20. But tomorrow night, one more Wildcat looks to join the conversation.
Left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson is projected to be one of the first players off the board during the 2019 MLB Draft after grabbing a lot of attention his junior year with the Wildcats.
This season, the southpaw went 6-1 and posted a 2.40 ERA. Thompson struck out 130 batters and only walked 34 in a bounce-back season after an injury-plagued sophomore year.
How does Thompson stack up against other pitching prospects? And where is his most likely landing spot?
Tim Britton, the Athletic’s New York Mets beat writer, sent the Kentucky ace to the Big Apple with the 12th overall pick in the Athletic’s most recent mock draft.
“Thompson’s stuff probably has a higher ceiling than that of [Anthony] Kay or [David] Peterson, with a fastball that flashes 96, a terrific slider and a curve that at the very least has a good spin rate. Thompson missed a bunch of 2018 with an elbow injury, but such concerns haven’t hindered the Mets from a prospect in the past. In a bounce-back junior campaign, he’s upped his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate, and he showed his full potential in a two-hit, 13-strikeout complete-game shutout of top-10 Georgia back in late March.”
Kay and Peterson are former first round picks of the Mets that are currently in the organization’s farm system, both of whom Britton believes have mid-rotation potential.
Jim Bowden, also of the Athletic, wrote a piece ranking the top pitchers in the draft. Thompson came in at number seven. Here’s what he had to say:
“Thompson has a 92-95 mph fastball with above-average running life. He also throws a nasty but inconsistent hard slider with mid-80s velocity and a slow-developing curveball. He occasionally mixes in a changeup. According to multiple teams I spoke with, he has an above-average spin rate on both of his breaking balls. He’s had a lot of medical questions in his college career, specifically issues with his elbow, but clubs seem to be convinced that it shouldn’t be a barrier to taking him in the first round. This spring, he was filling up the strike zone more than ever and was able to show his durability by making every start without any early exits.”
Interestingly enough, this won’t be Thompson’s first time going through the draft process. He was drafted out of Wapahani High School in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 11th round but elected to go to college.
There’s no denying Thompson’s decision was the right one. The 12th pick in last year’s draft signed for nearly $2.6 million, whereas most 11th round picks have standard bonus slots of $125,000.
The first and second rounds of the MLB Draft air on MLB Network tomorrow at 7 p.m.