David Jay/MadFriars

MadFriars Q&A: Padres pitching prospect Mason Thompson

After emerging as a top pitching prospect as early as his age 15 season, Mason Thompson underwent Tommy John surgery during his junior year and slipped somewhat under the radar heading into this year's draft. But the San Diego Padres pursued him hard and wound up signing him for well above slot for the third round where they picked him. So far, he's done nothing to make them question that decision.

A big righthander out of Round Rock, Texas, Mason Thompson has all the components you like to see in a young pitcher. His frame is already solid, but has plenty of room to grow. He has good feel for his pitches already, and an understanding of what he's trying to do in his work.

Thompson spent his first six weeks in the organization just getting acclimated to pro ball. But on August third, he joined Reggie Lawson and Dan Dallas, fellow high school draftees in making his professional debut. He'll only work about 10 innings in his first summer with the Padres, but the team already envisions him as a key component of the next wave of talented starting pitching who will come behind the group that opened this season in Fort Wayne.

We caught up with Mason in Peoria.

MadFriars: First and foremost, how does your arm feel?

Mason Thompson: It feels great. It feels good to get back out there and compete again. There’s no soreness, no issues so far, so I’m just glad to be back. It’s been a learning curve. At the beginning, was I afraid to let it loose? Of course. But at this point, it feels good and I don’t think there’s anything holding me back at this point.

I’d imagine there were times in the process where you were tempted to rush it and try to get back quicker. How did you manage that rehab work going into the draft?

Mason Thompson: I had a real good supporting cast and my family was really supportive. From the very beginning, we looked at the big picture and realized that the last three months weren’t as important as the next 10, 15 or 20 years, so that was kind of our approach going into it.

What did you learn out of that rehab process?

Mason Thompson: The main thing I learned was how easy it is for these opportunities to be taken away and how quickly the game can change on you. That was definitely my biggest take-away. As far as the actual rehab, I’d say it just shows how much work it takes to get to the level you want to be at and the level these top guys are at. It really motivated me to get after it.

Did you do a private workout for the Padres heading into draft day?

Mason Thompson: Yeah, I threw a couple of times in front of Logan [White] and Mark [Conner]. I’d say they went really well and I really connected with those guys pretty quickly. I think we built a really good relationship leading up into the draft.

They obviously gave you a while between when you got here to Peoria and when you got into game action. What was the program they had you on when you arrived?

Mason Thompson: It just started as a normal throwing program, start out light and build your way up from flat ground to some light bullpens and then do a little heavier bullpen before into the game. It’s basically like you’re starting a new season, a new year coming off the offseason.

As you’ve gotten into your first couple of games out here, what’s surprised you or been an adjustment for you?

Mason Thompson: Well, one thing is you’re not going to be able to just throw your fastball past guys like you could at the high school level, so that’s the biggest adjustment. But for me coming off that injury, it’s really been kind of a learning thing, going out here and getting comfortable. And from there, it’s going to be building into these next seasons.

Where’s your velocity right now?

Mason Thompson: Sitting 90-93.

And are you throwing both the slider and curve at this point?

Mason Thompson: I have. I actually haven’t thrown the curve as much in the last two outings as I had before because the slider’s come as a little stronger and more developed pitch at this point, so it may be something that I stick with. I’ll continue to mess with the curveball and get that working too, but at this point, the slider’s just a better pitch.

Have you thrown both since you were with the Team USA program?

Mason Thompson: Yes. I threw the fastball, slider, curveball change with the USA group. I actually stopped throwing the slider for a while just to protect my arm. At the high school level, I didn’t need it as much as I would against these more advanced, higher-level hitters. I figured it would be something to break back out and mix into my arsenal.

Obviously, they preach change-up a lot out here. Has that always been a pitch you’ve had feel for?

Mason Thompson: Yeah. I’ve always really focused on the change – movement, deceptiveness, all that. I actually learned my change-up from Paul Byrd at about 14. He preached at that age that, you may not need it now, but at some point the hitters are going to get better and catch up, and you’re going to need it. So I’ve always worked on it and developed it. I’d say it’s been a really successful pitch for me at this point.

Is there anything that Mark Prior has given you to focus on in your work, or anything that’s really clicked for you?

Mason Thompson: I think at this point, it’s really not so much working on mechanics, he’s really helped me start to develop a routine and prepare for the long haul – for the innings load I’m going to face in the next few years. He has given me some pointers on mechanics and things like that, but definitely, your routine and mindset and how you go about things is the most important thing that he’s taught me to this point.

Obviously, you come in with a core group of young arms from both the draft and the international signings. What does it mean for you to be part of that core group that’s both competing with each other and working together to get better?

Mason Thompson: It’s been great. I’ve been real glad to be a part of it. If you go out there and you’re the top dog of the group and there’s not guys pushing you like there are in a group like this… it’s a group that’s really talented and all these guys work really hard, it really pushes you that little extra each time you go out there and condition or lift weights, and I’m really looking forward to what we all have in store in the future.

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