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Cards' Day 1 Draft picks boast a lot of upside

St. Louis takes college lefty Thompson at pick No. 19, high school phenom Fletcher at No. 58
@anne__rogers
June 3, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Zack Thompson’s bio on the Kentucky Wildcats website designates the now-Cardinal as a Cubs fan. Uh-oh. “We can work around that,” Thompson said. “I think I’ve got a new favorite team.” • Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage Regardless of prior team loyalty, the Cardinals nabbed a top

ST. LOUIS -- Zack Thompson’s bio on the Kentucky Wildcats website designates the now-Cardinal as a Cubs fan.

Uh-oh.

“We can work around that,” Thompson said. “I think I’ve got a new favorite team.”

Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage

Regardless of prior team loyalty, the Cardinals nabbed a top college pitcher and potential quick-riser with their first round, No. 19 pick of the 2019 MLB Draft.

Then, the Cardinals went from a polished Thompson and took a high school prospect with their No. 58 pick in Round 2: Center fielder Trejyn Fletcher out of Deering (Maine) High School.

Thompson, a junior from Selma, Ind., had a 2.40 ERA and was 6-1 (14 starts) this year for the Wildcats. In his three-year career with Kentucky, he had a 3.40 ERA.

Thompson was drafted by the Rays in 2016 out of high school, but failed a post-Draft physical and stayed with Kentucky. He missed two months as a sophomore with a left elbow injury that didn’t require surgery, and since then, he’s stayed healthy and did a better job of throwing strikes in 2019 -- whiffing 130 and walking just 34 for Kentucky this year.

The Cardinals don’t have concerns about his health, scouting director Randy Flores said, and Thompson’s body of work is the simplest reason why. Thompson pitched 90 innings this season, compared to 31 last year and 75 his freshman year, in which he started and came out of the bullpen.

Thompson also pitched two complete games in the Southeastern Conference: a two-hit gem against Georgia and a three-hit performance at Florida.

“In that environment, whether it’s on the road or at home, the fans are into it,” Flores said. “It’s just an electric environment. The fact that he has that type of stamina speaks to one of the reasons why we were comfortable making that pick. He weathered that and maintained his stuff.”

Thompson said his injury concerns are behind him, and he believes the 90-inning season is just the start.

“I’ve been able to put all that behind me,” Thompson said. “The way we’ve handled the injuries, we were very conservative and made sure we took care of everything extra carefully. I’d like to say that I got stronger and stronger as the year went on. In the future, I’d like to be a 200-inning guy every year.”

According to MLB Pipeline, Thompson has the arm to become a mid-rotation starter, and Flores said that’s how the Cardinals hope to develop him.

Thompson’s two best pitches are his fastball -- which sits in the low 90s, tops out at 96 mph and has run and angle -- and his slider, which is in the low 80s. He has a curveball with depth and can mix in a changeup, too.

As the No. 19 pick, Thompson, who has one year of college eligibility left, has a slot value at $3,609,700. Flores anticipates being able to ink Thompson to a deal.

The Cardinals have had success with No. 19 Draft picks, especially pitchers, in the past. Shelby Miller (2009) made his Major League debut in ‘12 and is now with the Rangers, Michael Wacha (‘12) made his debut for the Cardinals in ‘13 and Marco Gonzales (‘13) made his debut in ‘14 and is now pitching for the Mariners.

“It’s a first-class organization with so much history, top to bottom,” Thompson said. “Eleven World Series. I couldn’t be more happy to be in a program that cares so much about their people. The way they carry themselves and the way they develop pitchers, it’s a dream come true.”

Fletcher would be the highest high school position player ever drafted out of Maine -- but signability could be a concern, as the prospect is committed to Vanderbilt right now. The slot value for the 58th pick is estimated at $1.21 million.

Flores heaped praise on Fletcher’s athleticism, as he’s listed as a pitcher and center fielder -- although the Cardinals will develop him in center field.

Fletcher has power, arm strength and speed -- there’s video of him making an inside-the-park home run out of a ball off the center-field wall -- but there are some questions about how that talent will turn into production.

Flores walked away excited about where the Cardinals sat after the first two rounds of the Draft and what the future might look like for the organization.

“As we looked at our board in the second round, we saw a set of tools that was very, very intriguing,” Flores said. “We’re thrilled that [Fletcher] was there for us.”

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage beginning at noon CT. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.