The decision three years ago by University of Kentucky star pitcher Zack Thomspon to delay his professional baseball career just paid off in a big way.
On Monday night, the junior ace was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft at No. 19 overall by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Thompson will make his pro debut this summer more than three years after originally being drafted out of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 11th round in 2016. Thompson elected to enroll at UK rather than sign a contract with the Rays. Per MLB rules, that meant he had to wait three years before again becoming eligible for the draft.
Thompson’s decision to play for UK will result in a major pay increase for the Indiana native. The first pick of the 11th round in last year’s draft, Kacey Murphy, signed with the Detroit Tigers for $145,000. Players drafted in the top 15 of the first round typically sign for more than $3 million.
It’s no wonder Thompson shot up the MLB prospect rankings during his time as a Wildcat. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound left-hander finished his UK career with a record of 16-5 in 34 starts. He amassed 268 strikeouts over 196 2/3 innings and had a career earned run average of 3.20. This past season as a junior, Thompson was the No. 1 pitcher in Kentucky’s rotation. He went 6-1 and posted a career-best 2.40 ERA on his way to being named Second-Team All-Southeastern Conference.