Another year, another MLB Draft with the Texas Rangers choosing high-upside high school players.
But their first selection Monday came with a big league-ready name.
The Rangers used the 26th overall pick on Bubba Thompson, an outfielder from Mobile, Ala., who chose baseball over football and fully intends to sign a professional contract rather than fulfill his commitment to play baseball at Alabama.
They took shortstop Chris Seise from Winter Garden, Fla., three picks later. Their final pick of the night, 66th overall in the second round, was used on right-hander Hans Crouse from Dana Hills (Calif) High School.
Thompson and Seise are athletic, speedy players with body types that should allow their bats to develop power. Defensively, both are expected to stick to their current positions, center field and shortstop.
Crouse’s fastball has hit 97 mph.
Thompson, though, clearly has an 80-grade name, forgoing the name on his birth certificate.
“Leslie Arnold Thompson IV. That’s why I love Bubba,” Thompson said. “Everyone calls me Bubba.”
Kip Fagg, the Rangers’ director of amateur scouting, said that he expects all three players to sign with the Rangers and forgo college commitments.
Thompson was a quarterback McGill-Toolen High School who accounted for 3,860 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior. On the diamond, just as on the gridiron, he said he speed is his best tool and that he loves running down fly balls and stealing bases.
He batted .425 this season with 11 home runs and 18 steals. Baseball America says that his numbers came against inferior pitching and that his route running is raw. Thompson admitted that he has room to grow now that he can focus solely on baseball.
“Now that I am all baseball, I’m going to give it all I have,” said Thompson, who committed to play at Alabama. “When high school was in baseball, I went all out. I worked out. I hit longer days and longer hours. I developed that power. I think that’s what everyone saw.”
Seise, a Central Florida commitment, also packed on pounds entering his senior year at West Orange High, and it translated into more power. He batted .413 with 31 runs, 24 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits.
He has a good grasp of who the Rangers are Seise was teammates last year with Kole Enright, the Rangers’ third-round pick in 2016.
“He played right next to me last year at third base,” Seise said. “He texted me. He was like, ‘Dude, I’m so excited.’”
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Crouse was committed to Southern Cal after a steady increase of his velocity from his sophomore to senior seasons. He also pitched the Team USA 18-under team to the gold medal last summer.
“I was shocked that he was there at 66,” Fagg said. “I thought for us to compete for this guy we were going to have to take him with one of our first picks.”
The Rangers have used their first three picks on high school players in two straight drafts and have used their first pick on preps in seven of the past nine drafts.