Shaq Thompson’s Baseball Experiment

This spring, five-star safety, Shaq Thompson, defied expectations and chose to attend the University of Washington. However, it appears that Thompson will defy the odds again by signing to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox.

Yesterday, the safety from Sacramento was drafted by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the first year player draft. Despite the minimal signing bonus that would come to him, the 571st overall pick has expressed to local newspapers that he plans to sign with the Bosox.

The real question is, what does this mean for the Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies?

Well, I don’t think this will be a particularly bad thing. In fact, I think this will be a good thing for the udub program.

Most importantly, Thompson would not have to quit collegiate football. He could still play baseball in the spring and summer and football in the fall. While the Husky recruit would not be able to devote his time to workouts, he would still be active during the baseball season, although he would not be working on football-specific muscles.

On the baseball field, Thompson would be described as a “raw, toolsy player” according to scouting lingo. He has the athleticism, but not the refinement. Teams take risks on kids like him knowing that they will have to do lots of polishing before he is even close to becoming a big-league product.

Considering that Thompson didn’t even play baseball in his senior year of high school, it’s safe to assume that he will be in the lower levels of the farm system when he joins the Red Sox’ farm organization. The lower levels of the system, which is where I expect Thompson to spend his first one or two season, play shorter seasons which begin in June and end in August. This means that Thompson would not miss as many Washington practices as he would otherwise.

I expect the Red Sox to try to groom Thompson as a center fielder considering his speed and safety instincts. This is good because it is a pretty safe position to play. Unlike pitcher, catcher, or some of the infield positions, center fielders are much less likely to get injured.

The best part of Shaq’s decision is that he will be forced to forfeit his football scholarship in order to pursue baseball. This will free up the scholarship for someone else down the road which will be great, since the Huskies will be getting one of the biggest recruits in the nation without giving up a scholarship.

Lastly, I don’t expect Shaq to experience much success in baseball. He has great tools, but tools can’t hit a 95 mph fastball or a sharp slider. I don’t know this for sure, but I don’t believe he has faced much good pitching. The fact that he hasn’t had much experience in baseball will certainly hurt him. I expect him to be a plus defender with good speed and flashes of power due to his football strength. However, his lack of consistency at the plate will not allow him to tap into that raw power and he will quickly become yet another casualty of minor league baseball.

Based on the picture on the right (which was the only one I could find of him playing baseball) his swing is that of a power hitter which is what you would expect of a kid with a football body. In this picture, I will assume that he was fooled by a curveball out of the zone considering his weight distribution, pulled head, and the fact that the catcher is blocking a ball in the dirt. While this is circumstantial, the fact that he got fooled this bad by a high school curveball certainly isn’t a good sign for his baseball career.

To sum up, I wouldn’t be too worried about Shaq Thompson’s venture into our national pastime. The minor league farm system is a brutal thing. Between the measly salary, brutal living and traveling conditions, and the failure I expect Thompson to experience, I think that he will be more than willing to quit baseball after a season or two in favor of football where he can experience air conditioned hotels again. Thompson’s true future is in football, and I think he will realize that after a few tough months of facing professional competition.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Mlb Draft, Shaq Thompson, Washington Husky Football

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