2020 Preseason Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospect #5

PROSPECT PREFACE

I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.

I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).

There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.

Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. Those write-ups are the shells for these posts. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each and I've done some MAJOR editing within each write-up, as well. To be honest, this particular write-up has light editing with major additions.


Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!



LHP ZacK Thompson

Age 22

GCL & Palm Beach

1st Round, 2019



One More Time, I'd Like To Explanation... On draft night, I stated that my preference would have been for the Cardinals to select either George Kirby or Brennan Malone with the 19th overall pick instead of Thompson. Those two were my preference entering the draft, specifically Kirby. I was disappointed that the Cardinals passed over someone in Kirby that seemed like a quick-ascender, without health issues, that had a clear floor as a starting rotation piece. I also felt like the Cardinals were still trying too hard to find another lefty, maybe at the expense of a better right-handed option. I decided very poorly on the wording of THIS tweet, and I wish that I would have been clearer in what I was trying to say. That's because I'm a moron.


Truth is, the selection of ZacK Thompson was the correct decision to make, even if it wasn't the decision that I would have made at the time. For those that do not know, the lowercase "k" has been replaced with an uppercase "K" since last June when I accidentally spelt his name with an "h" instead of a "k", then realized the gold that I had fallen into after Twitter pointed out how dumb I was for misspelling his name.


You know, an uppercase "K."

Like, a "strikeout?"

Yeah, I'm clever. Boy, what a winner I am.

My parents should have aborted me.


Truth is, Thompson's ceiling is higher than Kirby's is, even if Kirby's floor is that of a certain back-end starter.


Also, I can now admit, after internalizing about it, that I was probably over-reacting to the reports of two separate concerns about the health of ZacK Thompson's arm. One concern from high school, and another from his early years at Kentucky. Instead, I should have been focusing on just how well he recovered during his 2019 season at Kentucky. I focused on the wrong things instead of focusing on just how talented ZacK is, and committed he was to getting himself into pitching-shape.


You know all of those things that I just said about Génesis Cabrera over the last couple of seasons? All of the gushing? About how his stuff is some of the liveliest in the organization but his command is what needs to improve? Well, Thompson's command is already better than Cabrera's is. Thompson's curve is, without a doubt, better than Cabrera's is, too.


Thompson's fastball isn't as explosive or as high-velocity as Génesis's is, but it's lively and sneaky enough to get the job done. He is at his best when he is throwing that thing in the lower corners of the zone, and he is very good at it because of how good his command is. When the velocity on his fastball is up, it's an above average pitch. Take a look at this curveball in the gif below. It's a really great pitch, and it might be just a kick below where Griffin Roberts' slider is at now/was at during draft night. In the first two gifs of this post, Thompson goes curve then fastball for Kentucky. I love that he can use his offspeed stuff to set up a fastball strikeout. Enjoy!


I guess that the main thing to keep an eye on with Thompson is how his slider progress. His slider has looked pretty damn good so far this spring, as the gif below will demonstrate. His slider was a strikeout pitch for him while he was in college. As of right now, it looks like it is headed for that same type of devastation, especially towards left-handed hitters, at the major league level that he displayed during college. His slider and changeup still need to get better, and he needs to stay healthy and in-shape, but I am certain that being cute with his timetable is the wrong thing to do here.

Slider

I don't want to advance too far without doubling back around to the injury issues. There's one point that needs to be made, and it needs to be read loudly:

ZacK Thompson has already had arm issues. He's also pitched in the toughest division in college baseball. It's reasonable to think that Thompson only has so many bullets before things have the potential to get weird. THE CARDINALS WOULD BE WISE TO GET THOMPSON TO THE MAJORS AS QUICKLY AS HIS OWN PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT ALLOWS.


Thompson isn't some kid in need of serious development. He still has work to do to get to his high ceiling, but not in the way that he'll benefit from years in the minors.


As most of you know, I've never once supported the idea of rushing a player to the majors. NOT ONCE. I am in favor of an accelerated timetable with Thompson, but only because I believe that he's close to being ready for it. I also believe that the health of his arm dictate the need for an accelerated timetable. That is, IF it's allowed by his own personal health and development. Now, I already know where your mind went. Let me stop you right there. NO, THOMPSON SHOULD NOT BE AN OPTION FOR THE CARDINALS AT THE ONSET OF THE 2020 SEASON. I do love the idea of starting him in Springfield and getting him to Memphis as soon as possible. I can promise you that you'll fall further and further in love with Thompson with the more you see of him. If I was forced to pick one pitcher that hasn't made a major league debut that will open eyes during spring training 2020, the easy and correct answer would be ZacK Thompson (this part was from the position player rankings. I left it in here because it's nice to be correct about something for a change).

Curve

I know that some people have highlighted his mechanics as a reason for his arm struggles. Personally, I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that those arm problems went away when he got himself into better shape. I've also heard others say that his mechanics are out of wack, and that he is going to need some major work. I gotta tell ya, us lefties... we are just different. We are a weird breed. You can't force normal on us. We can't comprehend it like righties. What I see is tremendous balance, great repeatability, and a similar release point and arm speed with everything but the changeup. I'm very pleased with how he throws, mechanically. Thompson isn't a case like Cabrera in which his timing is off, which throws off his balance, which then throws of his command. Thompson is way more polished than that.


At Kentucky, Thompson was known for being committed to the art of pitching. He's worked to get both his curveball and his slider into the 3000 RPM categories, and he's used technology to help him get there. He's also been known to spend hours and hours looking over film/video in an effort to get as good as he is capable of being. With this in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the reports out of spring training have this man hounding the veterans pitchers in the organization for as much information as he can soak in. This kid loves baseball, he loves pitching, he appreciates the history of the organization, and he's going to do everything that he can to max-out his skill set both physically and mentally.

96 MPH Fastball

So far this spring training, Thompson has been one of the most impressive pitchers in camp (NAILED IT). We've seen him mix that beautiful curve with that retooled slider. As we mentioned, his fastball isn't the liveliest with the most throttle, but he knows what to do with what he has. It's been up to 96 MPH in spring training (as you'll see in the gif above), but it's always been more sustainable between 91-94. That seems to be the velocity range that comes with the most command, as well. As you might suspect, if he's living in the low-90's (91 or lower), or dipping into the 80's, then he is usually in trouble.


The changeup, once again, is the pitch that is going to need work. Looking back at the game footage from his last season at Kentucky, there are times when it looks like it can be very good, and there are times when big-damage is being done against it. I haven't seen it much since he was drafted, so I am going to hold off having much of a thought on it right now.


With a lefty like this, I'm always anxious to see how they perform at the advanced minor league level against right-handed hitters. He didn't struggle much against them during his final year at Kentucky. He's looked good against them this spring, as well (as the gifs against Trea Turner within this post illustrate). That's where the effectiveness of the changeup could really come into play. I'm just so excited to see a full season of this kid in the organization.


It is undeniable that Thompson appears to have the polish, and the stuff, that you'd want out of a potential rotation option at the major league level in the future. And, man, do I love the pace that he works at!



THE DEAL


I was wrong to question the selection of Thompson in the first place, and I need to state that very clearly. I've fallen in love with this kid, and I think there's an argument to be made that he should be #2 on this list. I'm going to keep him a little further back, until I can watch him pitch extensively and healthily at the minor league level.


What we know for sure is that Thompson is an incredibly polished starting pitcher that probably isn't too far away from being ready to make a major league debut. He throws a curve that is easily a plus pitch, and it's made even better when his retooled slider is biting, and his low 90's-living fastball is jumping. He has work to do with his changeup, but there is a very good chance that the other three pitches are good enough to make him a middle of the rotation arm. If he's healthy, he's going to be a top 100 prospect when the national outlets re-rank midseason.


I am hopeful that Thompson starts the season at Springfield, and that he is moved as aggressively as his own personal success and development will allow.


The biggest of shout outs should be given to @Cardinalsgifs, FanGraphs, Twitter, and MiLB. TV for all of the work that they do that eventually gets put into these articles.

Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. I hate WIX so much, Gifs. Anyway, it's been a pleasure to work on these projects with him over the years.


Thanks For Reading!!

Kyle Reis