Tigers close to signing top pick Thompson
The Tigers won’t need to go to the July deadline to sign their top picks from last week’s First-Year Player Draft. Both second-round selection Jake Thompson and third-round pick Austin Schotts are on the verge of traveling to Lakeland for physical exams that should clear the way for them to agree to deals.
Thompson confirmed to MLB.com Monday afternoon that he’ll be flying on Tuesday to Lakeland, where the Tigers house their player development and spring training operations. He’ll undergo his physical Wednesday morning and should have everything finalized soon after that.
Thompson tweeted the information earlier in the day. He added that Schotts will be traveling with him for his physical.
The Tigers have a policy of not confirming deals with players until they have passed their physicals.
Both Thompson and Schotts are high school talents from Texas have scholarship offers to play college ball — Thompson at Texas Christian University, Schotts at Oklahoma State — but both have been widely expected to turn pro. With baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement setting firmer parameters and limits on signing bonuses, the Tigers considered signability one of the biggest factors in who they would draft.
With just over $2 million available under the new rules to spend on their top nine picks, they didn’t have the finances to gamble on prep athletes who were leaning towards going to college. They still found talent they liked in Thompson, a big right-hander with a good fastball with movement, and Schotts, a speedy shortstop from Centennial High School who projects as a center fielder but has the potential for above-average power.
The only real surprise in the expected deals is the speed with which they’re getting done. Though Thompson could have waited until closer to the deadline, he said his was not a difficult decision.
“It was pretty easy,” he said in a phone interview Monday afteroon. “Being the Tigers’ first pick, it made it a whole lot easier. I knew that if I went in a certain area in the draft, that I was going to sign.”
The signing will complete what has been a crazy week for Thompson, who was drafted a week ago and graduated from Rockwell-Heath High School in Texas later in the week.
Once Thompson’s deal is finished, he said he’ll report to the Tigers’ Gulf Coast League team, where he’ll spend the summer training and eventually pitching. That’s a major bonus on the accelerated signings under the new rules. When players signed in August under the previous deadline, they usually had no time left to get ready for the summer season, leaving them to wait until fall instructional leagues to begin work.
Thompson said the early work was a major factor in his decision to sign so early.
“I think it’s huge,” he said. “It’s just basically like you get an extra season. You get in the program faster and they get to work with you.”