Bubba Thompson is headed to next week’s Major League Baseball Draft in Secaucus, N.J.
From there, he’s either headed to Tuscaloosa or “The Show.” The McGill Toolen (Ala.) two-sport star has no idea which destination yet, but he knows what the decision will come down to.
“It’s exciting but I am a little nervous,” Thompson, who starred as a high school quarterback and outfielder. “The good thing is that we’re prepared for two different good possibilities. Worst case is I go to college, and that’s great, too.
“I was a Boston Red Sox fan growing up, but now I’ll be excited to play for any team.
“It’s all the same goal, and it’ll come down to a certain amount of money.”
Thompson has plenty of reasons to be excited. While he entered his final high school baseball season as a consensus top-100 prospect, a strong year at the plate has vaulted him firmly into first-round contention.
He hit .404 with nine homers, showcasing the kind of power and consistent contact that he had lacked previously … and which had opened questions about whether he would rise high enough up the draft boards to spurn college baseball and football.
Thompson was an Auburn baseball commit as of last spring, but then a stellar senior season as a quarterback in which he led McGill Toolen to the Class 7A title game and threw for 38 touchdowns and and nearly 3,200 yards led to increased football opportunities. Ole Miss and Tennessee were among the schools that showed interest.
A number of schools had inquired about him playing both sports. But Thompson dispelled notions about playing college football in February, when the quarterback announced he would attend Alabama and focus on baseball.
Now, according to MLBPipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis, it’s unlikely that he will fall far enough down the draft boards to consider attending college.
Coming in the season, Thompson was considered for the preseason top 50, Callis said. He is now at No. 26.
“We were intrigued by the athleticism but weren’t sure about the bat,” Callis said. “He’s answered those questions this spring. He’s a well above average runner with a great arm. He’s shown good feel for the barrel and more power than most people thought.
“I’m working on another mock draft, so I haven’t quite pinned down where he’ll go right now. Everyone’s been putting him at No. 23 to the Dodgers, and I’d be very surprised if he gets past that. That’s almost the floor for him. … He’s made the transformation from raw athlete. Coming into the year, I thought he had a chance to be a first-round pick, and now he definitely is.”
Thompson has been busy since the season ended with a series of team workours, including the Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and the Red Sox.
To put Thompson’s potential upcoming decision in perspective, just consider what could be at stake: The No. 23 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Delvin Pérez Dippini (who goes by Pérez), signed with the Cardinals with a signing bonus of $2.2 million.
That’s life-changing wealth for Thompson and his family. As much as he might want to be a member of the Crimson Tide, it will be hard for the athletic outfielder to turn away from such a payday.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for my family,” he said. “It all depends on what happens in the draft. I’ll miss football. I’ll miss my wide receivers. We had such a special group of guys and a great student section that was always there and so supportive. I’ll miss Friday nights.
“But I’ll still get to go fishing! I love my fishing so I’m going to have to bring my fishing poles wherever I go.”
He might not need to bring them. Where Thompson is headed, he can probably buy a new set and leave his old ones at home for visits to Alabama.