Alex Kielar | June 3rd, 2019
Zack Thompson, LHP (Kentucky)
Weight: 225 lb
2017 Stats: 3.45 ERA, 8-3, 96 SO, 38 BB, .187 BAA, 75.2 IP
2018 Stats: 4.94 ERA, 2-1, 42 SO, 20 BB, .212 BAA, 31.0 IP
2019 Stats: 2.40 ERA, 6-1, 130 SO, 34 BB, .184 BAA, 90.0 IP
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 Slider: 55 Curveball: 55 Changeup: 50 Control: 50
Zack Thompson, the junior lefty from Kentucky, was born October 28, 1997, in Anderson, Indiana. He attended Wapahani High School in Selma, Indiana where he completely dominated the competition. He went a combined 19-0 his sophomore and junior seasons while pitching to a combined 0.59 ERA, while also going 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 56 innings his senior season. Following this phenomenal high school career, he was selected in the 11th round of the 2016 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, but elected not to sign, and enrolled at Kentucky. As a freshman with the Wildcats, he started 13 games, while appearing in seven more, going 8-3 with a 3.45 ERA. Thompson, unfortunately, missed almost two months his sophomore season with an elbow injury, appearing in nine games, seven as a starter, and later played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team that summer. Before the 2019 season, he was named to the Preseason All-SEC First Team after appearing in three games for the National Team, pitching in 8.2 innings while allowing three hits, five walks, no runs, and striking out seven. Thompson pitched a complete game shutout against the Georgia Bulldogs in which he struck out 13, helping him earn SEC Player of the Week on April 1. He was named to the All-SEC Second Team after posting a 6-1 record with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts while striking out 130 batters.
Thompson has a very strong four-pitch arsenal with a strong frame and build, having a plus fastball and slider, with a curveball that is also plus at its best, all graded at 55/90, which are excellent grades. His fastball tops out at 95-96 at times and usually sits low-90s, and with some run can be very deceptive. His slider and curveball have some very good spin rates, and his curveball isn’t too powerful, but it has depth and can be deceptive. He has found more control with his pitches this season after struggling a bit in his first two college seasons, as he has really pounded the strike zone and has a high strikeout rate. His changeup is his weakest link, but can still be improved with work, and is still graded at 50, which is good. His solid frame and arsenal slot him as a solid mid-rotation starter in the majors.
The real bug concern for Thompson is injuries and ability (inability) to stay healthy and pitch full seasons. Following high school and going into the 2016 Draft, there were concerns with his shoulder that caused him to slid from a possible Fifth-rounder to the eleventh round, along with his commitment to Kentucky. If it weren’t for his injury concerns, he may have been selected sooner, and maybe he would’ve elected to go to whatever team picked him. That wasn’t the case though, and teams who were concerned with his injury history may have been right when he missed time with an elbow injury his sophomore year. However, he didn’t miss one start this season and pitched deeper into games than he had been throughout his college career. This has helped him rise up draft boards and he is a projected top 15 pick prior to the first round. Teams may shy away from him still, with his injury history, but if he stays healthy like he has this year, he will be a solid selection for any team.
Thompson has an overall solid makeup and arsenal, with four pretty solid pitches in his plus fastball, slider, and curveball, with a changeup that can become plus with work. He is a very exciting draft prospect with loads of potential and a high ceiling. He very may be the first pitcher taken in the draft and will certainly be one of the first for sure. He will also most likely become the new highest Kentucky Wildcat taken in the draft after Alex Meyer was selected 23rd overall in the 2011 Draft. His injury history is really his only major weakness or concern, and if he can stay healthy like he has his junior season, he will be a solid arm in any teams’ rotation.
Draft Projection: Round 1 Pick 12 New York Mets
The Mets seem to be leaning more towards a college arm than anything, and with other top college arms like Alek Manoah of West Virginia probably already off the board, Thompson is definitely a solid pick here for the Mets at 12. With free agency or arbitration coming up for several of their starters, they certainly need to stack up on more pitchers who are proven and ready soon.
Check out our other draft profiles: Andrew Vaughn | Will Wilson | Jackson Rutledge | Hunter Bishop | JJ Bleday | Kameron Misner | Logan Davidson| Seth Johnson | Bobby Witt Jr. | Josh Jung|Adley Rutschman |Daniel Espino|Nick Lodolo|Kody Hoese| Matthew Allan|C.J. Abrams| Riley Greene|Corbin Carroll|Bryson Stott| Shea Langeliers|Brett Baty| Alek Manoah|Braden Shewmake|Brennan Malone|Jack Leiter|George Kirby
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Main Image Credit: https://ukathletics.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=6918