The Tigers sure are relying heavily on their Texas scouts these days.
Detroit’s top three picks in 2012 — pitcher Jake Thompson, infielder/outfielder Austin Schotts and pitcher Drew VerHagen — all are arriving in the Tigers system by way of Texas, two of them from the same high school (Thompson and VerHagen both attended Rockwall-Heath, though VerHagen went on to Vanderbilt).
That means when you talk to a coach of one player, there’s a good chance he’ll also have an interesting scouting report on another.
Such is the case with Schotts’ high school coach, Jason Wilson, who provided me some insight into Thompson.
Wilson is the coach of Centennial High in Frisco, and his team was eliminated from the state playoffs by Thompson’s Rockwall-Heath program.
So, what was Wilson’s impression? Riveting. He puts Thompson among the top prep pitchers he’s ever come across.
But get this: He said he’s even a better hitter.
“He hit the farthest damn ball I’ve seen in my life this year in the playoffs,” Wilson said, laughing. “He hit a hanging change-up to straightaway center field — every bit of 450-460 feet. His batting practice sessions, those are ridiculous.”
That’s eye-opening stuff, to be sure, especially since the Tigers are convinced he’ll be a pitcher in their organization — despite Thompson’s impressive offensive resume. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound played first base in high school when he wasn’t pitching.
Of course, the Tigers are set at first base for years to come — Prince Fielder is there now, and there’s a chance Miguel Cabrera will shift back over when Fielder is ready to become a full-time designated hitter.
Plus, there’s big Aaron Westlake deep in the minor leagues.
So the Tigers obviously took Thompson, 18, for his right arm.
And Wilson certainly understands that.
“He’s upper 80s to 91-92. With Jake, when he overthrows, he gets a little more wild. When he’s on, when he’s really toug to hit, he using that 89-90 range,” Wilson said. “He threw Game 2 against us (in the teams’ playoff series). Obviously, he’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever see at the high-school level.”