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College | Story | 3/9/2019

College Notes: March 8

Brian Sakowski         Steve Fiorindo        
Photo: Zack Thompson (UK Athletics)

College Player Database

Player covered: Zack Thompson (Kentucky), Daniel Harper (Kentucky), Myles Christian (Middle Tennessee State), Zach Keenan (Middle Tennessee State), Tommy Henry (Michigan), Willie Weiss (Michigan), Zach Pettway (UCLA).

Zack Thompson, Kentucky
Kentucky's ace and high-profile lefthander Zack Thompson came into the 2019 season with a tremendous deal of draft hype as one of the top collegiate pitching prospects in the country, and he'd been solid if unspectacular leading up to his start against Middle Tennessee State. He was kind of just okay for the first 1 2/3 innings of his start, but then after allowing a run he was untouchable. His final line reads seven innings pitched, four hits, one earned run, no walks, and nine trikeouts on only 86 pitches. 

Thompson has excellent size and athleticism and certainly looks the part of a potential workhorse starting pitcher in the major leagues. He had plus strike-throwing ability in this outing, speaking both to his athleticism and the subsequent ability to repeat his delivery. He gets his plant leg in line to the plate though his hips aren't quite fully rotated, and does an excellent job getting over his front side and extending to the plate. The arm action is mostly clean, as he does get his back elbow up a little high through the back, but he stays inline through the stroke and hides the ball extremely well. 

The stuff was electric once he warmed up, which is understandable given the frigid game time temperature. He came out in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball, throwing strikes with it for the most part but not really being in command. Middle Tennessee State scratched across a run in the second inning on a Myles Christian sacrifice fly to go up 1-0 with two outs and from that moment on Thompson was untouchable. His next four fastballs all registered in the 95-96 mph range, and he quickly dispatched the final hitter of the inning. 

The arm speed is plus and the fastball does jump out of the hand. The total range for Thompson on this night was anywhere from 90-96 mph, sitting in the 90-93 mph range and reaching back for higher whenever he needed it. He held that velocity throughout the game and was still working in it when his day ended after seven strong. As the weather warms up it wouldn't be a surprise to see him tick even higher both in his sitting range and peak range as he has been up to 97-98 mph in the past. 

The off-speed stuff was electric as well, again, once he warmed up. He was overthrowing the slider early and turning it into essentially a below average cutter at 85-86 mph, but as he found the feel for it he backed off a bit and and started throwing a consistently plus slider in the 81-84 mph range. It's a weapon of a pitch that will miss bats against hitters of either handedness, and it's rather easy to project plus on it long term. He also spins a solid curveball that, when on, is a solid average offering. It's thrown in the mid-70s with big shape and very good depth, though it's much better when thrown with true 1-to-7 shaped spin as opposed to the more sweepy version that he sometimes goes with. He didn't throw the changeup much at all in this one, though in talking to scouts within the area who have seen him more frequently, it sounds like a fourth potentially average pitch at his disposal. 

Thompson's scouting card, in terms of projection grades, looks something like plus fastball and slider along with an average curveball and changeup to go along with very good strike-throwing ability and solid average mechanics. That, of course, is a high first rounder and that's where Thompson's upside surely says he fits, though there have been inconsistencies both in terms of stuff and performance from him since coming onto the radar. If he can pitch like he did against MTSU with more consistency as the season rolls on there's a chance that he could be the first college pitcher selected in the draft this June.

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