LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky junior left-hander Zack Thompson was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 19th overall pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft on Monday night, the highest a UK pitcher has been picked in the amateur draft.
Thompson, who hails from Selma, Indiana, is the third-highest overall pick to come out of the program behind only outfielder Chad Green (8th, 1996) and first baseman Evan White (17th, 2017). Previously, right-hander Alex Meyer had been taken 23rd overall by the Washington Nationals in 2011 draft. Thompson is just the fourth UK pitcher and sixth player overall to be drafted in the first round, and second in three seasons under coach Nick Mingione.
Thompson was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy, each of which is given to the nation’s top player after a dominant season on the mound where he posted a 6-1 record and 2.40 earned run average in 14 starts. In 90.0 innings he allowed just 59 hits and 34 walks while striking out 130 batters. He held opposing hitters to just a .184 batting average and ranked 11thnationally in strikeouts per nine inning with 13.00.
In Southeastern Conference play, Thompson was even better against a schedule that saw the Cats play seven ranked teams. He went 5-1 record with a 2.27 ERA while striking out 93 batters in 67.1 innings. He had two complete game victories, opponents have hit just .183 against him and he had 10 more strikeouts looking than any other pitcher in the league.
Thompson was named National Pitcher of the Week by both Perfect Game and the National College Baseball Writers Association, as well as SEC Pitcher of the Week, after posting a complete game shutout victory over No. 4 Georgia on March 29. In that game, Thompson struck out a career-high 13 batters and allowing only two infield hits in the first complete game of his career while throwing a career-high 124 pitches.
He also pitched a complete game in a road win at Florida where he allowed just one unearned run to the Gators. Overall, he has logged 10 straight quality starts (6.0 innings, three or fewer earned runs).
The preseason All-America and All-SEC southpaw also became the 14th players in school history to reach 200 career strikeouts and currently ranks 18th among all active Division I pitchers (min. 75 innings) with 12.26 strikeouts per nine innings. He also ranks 21st among active pitchers in allowing just 6.09 hits per nine innings for his career.
Thompson ranks third on UK’s career strikeouts list with 268 and second on the single-season list with 130, which is a record for a left-handed pitcher.
Before arriving at UK the southpaw was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 11th round of the 2016 draft.