The Mets finally went with a college player in the fourth round, grabbing University of Miami third baseman David Thompson. Thompson was highly productive in 2015 for Miami after having a slew of injury issues during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Thompson had been drafted by the Yankees in the 38th round of the 2012 draft. At the time, he was a well-regarded power-hitting prospect who was also a great quarterback prospect, and he was considered nearly unsignable coming out of high school. Unfortunately, he tore his labrum almost right off the bat, and his arm strength never returned, ending his football career.
The shoulder injuries cost him some time as a freshman, and his sophomore year was marred by thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition where the thoracic cavity presses upon blood vessels. It can be incredibly disruptive to a player’s career, and those who suffer often have to have ribs surgically removed to relieve the pressure. Thompson had the surgery and came back in record time, but his sophomore season was kind of lost as well.
Finally healthy, his junior season was another matter. Thompson proved to be the Hurricanes’ best hitter, and when you’re the best hitter on a team featuring Zack Collins, that’s saying something. Thompson had a monster campaign, leading college baseball in home runs and pacing the ACC in RBI. His final slash line was .333/.445/.658. Not a bad little season.
I caught a pair of games between the Hurricanes and Gators in Gainesville at the end of February, and I can’t say Thompson impressed me. It wasn’t the best sample from him, as he really struggled against some iffy Gator pitching performances.
Thompson has a thick, strong build at 6 feet, 1 inch and 220 pounds, and looking at him you’d immediately think first baseman. He does not look like a good shot to stick as a third baseman, but he’d actually surprise you. He’s very nimble in the field, and his hands are surprisingly soft. I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw from Thompson. Unfortunately, despite his infield actions, I think he’s a long shot to stay at the hot corner; those shoulder surgeries really did a number on his arm strength. He bounces more than his fair share of throws across the diamond, and it looks very fringy to me. There’s a chance he could play left field, and the instincts and surprising athleticism he displays at third could serve him well there but a lack of speed might force him to first anyway. Either way, the bat is going to have to produce for him to advance.
And despite all the production this season, there are questions about the bat. The raw power is real: I grade it at above average--bordering on plus--and he can absolutely muscle the ball over the fence to all fields. His swing is fine when it’s working. He has an open stance and a hand load that is both deep and vertical. The hand load is nice, because it gives his swing an incline that produces lots of loft, but it also lengthens the swing path, which could lead to more strikeouts against better pitching. Also, sometimes he doesn’t completely close himself up before beginning his swing, which will rob his swing of important rotation and take his lower body out of it entirely. Luckily for him, this isn’t fatal, because he still possesses enough upper body strength to knock the ball out of the park anyway.
I’m convinced he’ll be able to hit for power, but the contact ability scares me a little. For all his strength, his bat speed is just average for me, and I’ve spoken to a couple of area scouts down here who feel the same way. There’s a lot of concern that he won’t be able to catch up to premium fastballs, relegating him to a guess hitter. I do love his patience at the plate, however. He’s willing to work counts and draw walks, which suits his profile as a power hitter very well. I’ve also been impressed with his ability to take pitches the other way, though again I question whether he’ll be able to time his swings as well against better outside fastballs.
Getting a player with Thompson’s production and track record in the fourth round is great, there are reasons why he was available. Questions over his bat speed, position as a professional, and injury history likely pushed him to this point. As a college junior, I think a signing for slot or under slot is very likely.