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Cardinals sign 1st-round pick Zack Thompson

@cdenicola13
June 12, 2019

MIAMI -- The first step in Cardinals first-round Draft pick Zack Thompson's professional baseball journey began on Tuesday, as he arrived at Busch Stadium to sign his contract. Thompson, a junior left-hander from the University of Kentucky whom St. Louis chose 19th overall last week, met with assistant general manager

MIAMI -- The first step in Cardinals first-round Draft pick Zack Thompson's professional baseball journey began on Tuesday, as he arrived at Busch Stadium to sign his contract.

Thompson, a junior left-hander from the University of Kentucky whom St. Louis chose 19th overall last week, met with assistant general manager and director of scouting Randy Flores and members of the front office and took a tour of Busch Stadium and the Cardinals Hall of Fame. He signed for $3 million, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis, $360,000 less than the $3.36 million slot value for his selection.

The 21-year-old Thompson went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts for the Wildcats in 2019, striking out 130 and walking just 34 over 90 innings. He tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in strikeouts and ranked tied for eighth among all Division I pitchers. Over three collegiate seasons, Thompson compiled a 16-5 record with a 3.20 ERA and 268 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings.

"What we typically do with someone like Zack, who had a very robust junior year, is allow them to have a very slow summer," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said from Marlins Park before the Cardinals' game against the Marlins. "But what we did with Michael Wacha [in 2012], we ended up having him pitch some important innings down the stretch for [Class A Advanced] Palm Beach. If all goes well, that may happen."

Given Thompson's history -- a left elbow injury that didn't require surgery but limited him to 31 frames in 2018 and a failed pre-Draft physical in '16 -- the Cardinals will monitor his innings and pitches.

“I’ve been able to put all that behind me,” Thompson said last week. “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.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder will report to Jupiter, Fla., likely by the end of the week and will receive his affiliation assignment.

Working in Thompson's favor is pitching in the competitive SEC, which could allow him to move through the system quickly. Among his accolades this season were second team All-SEC, second team Collegiate Baseball All-American, Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist and Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalist.

"You're hoping someone like him, he's pitching at Double-A next year," Mozeliak said. "First year at Double-A, step away from the big leagues."

Other signings from Tuesday included:
LHP Connor Thomas, Georgia Tech (Round 5)
OF Todd Lott, Louisiana-Lafayette (Round 9)
OF David Vinsky, Northwood University (Mich.) (Round 15)
RHP Scott Politz, Yale (Round 29)
RHP Anthony Green, Jefferson College (Round 33)
SS Ben Baird, Washington (Round 34)
C Kyle Skeels, Coastal Carolina (Round 36)

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.