Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: #30

Nineteen year-old shortstop Cory Thompson was a successful high school pitcher, but all his action this far has been in the infields while in the Arizona League. Thompson is a good athlete and the 5th-rounder is a candidate to climb the ladder in the Cincinnati system.

Every top prospect list wants to go off radar for at least one player that does not frequently show up on other lists. Last season this site had Zach Vincej at number 30 and he acquitted himself well enough to keep a spot on this year's list, so why not try again? Number 30 this time around is nineteen year old shortstop Cory Thompson.

As one could deduce from his age, he hasn't been playing professionally very long, starting after Cincinnati selected him in the fifth round (165th overall) of last year's draft out of Mauldin (SC) High School. The 97-win campaign in 2012 made the Reds wait until the second-to-last selection in each round and they were probably surprised to see Thompson still waiting because many analysts projected him to go one round earlier. Like many high school draftees he went to work for the short season in the Arizona League and finished with a respectable .266 AVG & .341 OBP. He was more impressive after the first two months when he was sitting at .317 AVG/.388 on August 1. Maybe his sub-.200 August was the product of the daily grind on an eighteen year-old away from home. For Thompson that grind was a bit more painful because included getting hit by pitches a dozen times in slightly more than 200 plate appearances.

Thompson hits right-handed and his platoon splits went contrary to expectation with a drop-off against southpaws (.355 OBP vs RHP/.298 vs LHP). Perhaps the Mauldin High schedule did not give him a lot of experience against professional caliber lefties.

His work with the glove wasn't anything to write home about, with a fielding percentage below .900 and an average around one error every two games. However, he's got plenty of arm for the position, having been clocked over 90 mph coming off the mound. If he can continue to show that he knows the way to first base offensively there's always the possibility of converting him to the less demanding second base position. He can also throw a curve and was developing a changeup, so trying him out on the mound isn't out of the question either, though his stature (5'11"/180#) would probably limit those options in the bullpen. Right now his value with the Reds is a potential future in the middle infield, preferably at short.

He has sufficient speed for the middle infield too, though it didn't show in his base-stealing success in the AZL. He made good contact during his professional debut, striking out once per seven plate appearances on average. The Reds chose college players in with three of their first five selections and with them were expectations of easier signings and more money for players in later rounds. It appears they liked Thompson when his selection came around and felt confident of denying his services to the University of South Carolina by signing him, which they did by going $93,000 over the recommended slot.

Thompson is athletic and has the feet and arm to project into a solid shortstop. A sophomore debut in a full season isn't out of the question, but he's still young and it's more likely he'll wait until the short season at Billings in 2014. The Reds don't have a lot of other high-profile shortstop prospects in the pipeline above him and if he shows some improvement with the leather and development at the plate it would make him a candidate for a fast track up the system.

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