Cardinals Take Kentucky LHP Zack Thompson in 2019 First Round

(photo: Zack Thompson/University of Kentucky)

By Blake Newberry and Brian Walton

In Day 1 of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals can only hope to make a selection as strong as 2018’s no. 19 overall selection, Arizona high school third baseman Nolan Gorman, now the consensus no. 1 prospect in the system.

Under Assistant GM/Scouting Director Randy Flores, the club once again has the 19th pick as well as the 58th selection, in Round 2. The 75th overall pick, from Competitive Balance Round B, was traded to Arizona in the Paul Goldschmidt acquisition.

First up was left-hander pitcher Zack Thompson from the University of Kentucky, taken 19th overall.

Overall in Day 1, encompassing these first two picks, the Cardinals have been allocated $4,573,300 in bonus pool money. Their total through round 10 is $6,903,500, the 22nd-largest allocation.

Rounds 3-10 will occur starting at 1:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and rounds 11-40 will be completed beginning at noon ET on Wednesday.

To reference the Cardinals’ new draft class on an ongoing basis, each player will have a profile located on a holding team called “2019 DRAFT UNSIGNED PLAYERS”. This can be accessed at the bottom of the drop-down menu in the red column in the left menu called “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” or click here.

Click on players’ photos to be taken to their player profile page here at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biographical information.

St. Louis’ selections – 2019 Draft day 1

First round, 19th overall

LHP Zack Thompson
University of Kentucky, Junior
6’2”, 225 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Previously Drafted: Tampa Bay Rays 2016 (11th Round)

Zack Thompson

The Cardinals used their first pick to replenish a traditionally strong pitching system which has been depleted in recent years due to trades and promotions.

Thompson features four pitches with a fastball that sits in the 91-92 mph range but can reach as high as 94. Most scouts give this pitch a 55, but will not call it a true plus offering, Where Thompson separates himself is with his secondary offerings. He has shown a 84 mph slider with a high spin rate that gives it plus potential and is a true swing and miss pitch. He occasionally allows it to get loopy which makes it more hittable, but overall it is his go to secondary pitch. He also throws a mid-70s curveball which is still inconsistent. It can range from a fringe pitch to above-average, giving it the potential to be a plus pitch with more refinement. Thompson also throws a changeup, but like most young pitchers, is it not often used. However, when he throws it most scouts grade it out as average.

This four-pitch mix gives the lefty one of the highest upsides among the pitchers in this year’s draft and should allow him to rise quickly through the Cardinals system. He tends to show a lot of emotion on the mound and is as competitive as anyone. Thompson is a fairly athletic pitcher which continues the Cardinals recent trend of drafting and developing athletes on the mound.

Thompson has an injury history which scared some teams off and caused him to fall to the Cardinals at pick 19 despite being either the best or second-best college pitcher, depending on who you ask. He had a sore shoulder that limited him as a high school junior and also nursed a sore elbow that caused him to miss seven starts as a sophomore at Kentucky. This seems to be another case of the Cardinals taking the best player available, and similar to last year (Nolan Gorman) it is one with the talent to be picked higher but dropped.

Despite the injury concerns, Thompson has been dominant on the mound in college. He made an immediate impact as a freshman by striking out 11.6 batters per nine innings. He had a rocky sophomore season because of his elbow problems but returned to pitch in the Cape Cod League and for USA Baseball. He returned with a vengeance in his Junior year by striking out nine or more in nine of his first 11 starts. He also boasted one of the best swing-and-miss rates among this year’s crop of college pitchers, despite pitching in the very talented SEC. Thompson also improved his control with most scouts giving him an average grade, after struggling with walks early in his college career.

Many scouts project him as a back end of the rotation starter, but there could be more potential if he can stay healthy.

The pool amount for this pick is $3,359,000.

Cardinals reaction

“We always enter the draft trying to find someone we feel will have an impact on our Major League team with our first selection,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.  “Zack was someone we identified who could do just that.  We look forward to having him join the St. Louis Cardinals organization.”

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to make the pick,” said Flores. “Zack Thompson is one of those guys when you watch him live, you come away really impressed with his physicality, you come away impressed with his ability to spin the ball, and you truly come away impressed with his guts and grit on the mound.  He’s someone who has improved every year, checks a lot of boxes for us, and we are really happy he was staring at us at (pick) 19.”

Flores discusses his selection of Thompson in further detail.

Thompson’s reaction

The new draftee takes questions from the media Monday night.

Second round, 58th overall

OF Trejyn Fletcher
Deering High School, Portland, Maine
6’2”, 190 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Commitment: Vanderbilt

Trejyn Fletcher

The Cardinals used their second pick on a toolsy but raw prep outfielder with terrific athleticism.

Fletcher was originally a member of the 2020 draft class, but he reclassified in order to reach Vanderbilt a year earlier, as well as be eligible for the draft a year sooner. This made it very difficult to get a read on exactly how talented Fletcher truly is.

He played high school in Maine, which is not exactly a hotbed for baseball talent. This location made it hard for scouts to see him and to truly gauge his skill as he was playing against lesser competition than other high school prospects. However, what is clear is that he is a plus runner who is capable of explosive, quick-twitch movements, this should provide him the ability to stick in center field, while also giving him good bat speed.

Offensively, Fletcher has plus raw power. This is partially due to his size (6’2”, 200 pounds), but it is also due to his aggressive, pull-happy swing. This can lead to some swing-and-miss and this has led to some scouts concerned that he might not be able to make enough contact. However, he is still very raw and still has some physical maturation left in his body that will give him enough power to justify some contact concerns.

On the defensive side, Fletcher appears to have the ability to become a plus defender in center field. He also has plus arm strength that would allow him to move to a corner outfield spot, especially if his raw power is able to fully develop. In addition, the right-hander showed some potential on the mound with a fastball that can reach 95 mph. However, the Cardinals drafted him as an outfielder and most scouts like his potential as a position player more.

He is committed to play at Vanderbilt, and he is expected to be a tough sign. The Cardinals will likely have to give him an over-slot deal to sign him. This pick also shows a common philosophy to draft a safe, college pitcher followed by a high-upside prep position player that is not as much of a sure thing. It makes sense that the Cardinals would follow this route after Zack Thompson fell to them at 19.

Fletcher is a potential five tool player, but he is still very raw and will need a lot of development before he is ready to face big league pitching. The success of this pick will ultimately come down to the Cardinals player development system, but if everything pans out, Fletcher could have a very impactful big-league career.

The pool amount for this pick is $1,214,300.

Cardinals reaction

Flores talks about the Cardinals’ second-rounder.

Your authors

TCN staff writer Blake Newberry is writing the player capsules with Brian Walton filling in the rest.

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