While playing high school baseball in Miami, third baseman David Thompson broke Alex Rodriguez’s school home run and RBI records. He also set Florida’s career prep long-ball record, unseating Prince Fielder for that distinction. After a successful career at the University of Miami, Thompson now is putting up gaudy numbers as a professional ballplayer with the Columbia Fireflies. Thompson, a fourth-round pick last June, is tied for the lead in all of minor league baseball with 27 RBIs this season.
“I wasn’t expecting to have this many already,” Thompson said. “It’s been fun to come up with guys on base. Every game I’m coming up with guys on base, pretty much. I’m just trying to put the ball in play and find a hole somewhere.”
Thompson isn’t lying when he suggests he always has someone on base ahead of him. Teammate Vinny Siena, taken in the 14th round last year out of UConn, currently has a .475 on-base percentage, which ranks ninth in all of the minors. He has scored 21 runs in 24 games. Thirteen of Thompson’s RBIs -- 48 percent -- have plated Siena.
“He’s on base, I feel like, every time I come up to bat,” Thompson said. “He’s just so consistent. He’s got a great approach up there -- sees pitches well and swings at his pitch. Every time he’s up to bat, you feel like he’s going to get on base or hit the ball hard somewhere.”
Thompson hit a modest .218/.268/.320 in 228 plate appearances with Brooklyn after last year’s draft. Team officials believe he was out of gas, having reported shortly after playing through the College World Series with the Hurricanes.
This season, he is hitting .278/.346/.467 in 104 plate appearances with Columbia in the South Atlantic League.
“I was tired, but I just had a bad year swinging at some bad pitches,” Thompson said about his inaugural professional season. “I didn’t play too well. I’m trying to put that in the past and move on and not think about that too much.”
Thompson acknowledged that he is still trying to improve his selectivity at the plate after being more of a free swinger in college.
“Just trying to buy into the Mets’ approach, which I’ve still got a lot to work on,” Thompson said. “I’m still getting myself out too much by swinging at bad pitches. But I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at swinging at my pitch instead of a pitcher’s pitch. I’m still working on that. I’m still chasing too many balls. But that’s where I’m working the most.”
The Mets have been complimentary of Thompson’s fielding at third base, although Thompson concedes he does not have a rifle arm. He twice had labrum surgeries and also had a procedure to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which involved removing a rib and troublesome vein.
“I’ve always considered myself a pretty good third baseman,” Thompson said. “I get ragged on about my arm a lot. But my arm is feeling pretty good, and I feel like I can get the ball there in time. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get better -- getting quicker. But I like playing third and feel like I do a pretty good job.”
As for unseating A-Rod and Fielder in the prep record books, Thompson downplays the accomplishment.
“I don’t compare myself to those guys at all,” he said. “They’re well-accomplished big leaguers. I hope to get to the big leagues one day. And then maybe I could talk about that a little bit.”
Average: Wuilmer Becerra, St. Lucie, .400; Ty Kelly, Vegas, .396; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .356; Vinny Siena, Columbia, .351; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, .309; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, .308; Gavin Cecchini, Vegas, .299; Niuman Romero, Binghamton, .295; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, .294; Tomas Nido, St. Lucie, .293.
Homers: Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 4; Marc Krauss, Vegas, 3; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 3; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 3; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 3; Jeff Diehl, Columbia, 3; Ivan Wilson, Columbia, 3.
RBIs: David Thompson, Columbia, 27; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 20; T.J Rivera, Vegas, 19; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 18; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 17.
Steals: Champ Stuart, St. Lucie, 9; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, 7; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 5.
ERA: P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 1.14; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 1.82; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 2.05; Ricky Knapp, St. Lucie, 2.38; Joe Shaw, Columbia, 2.57; Casey Delgado, St. Lucie, 2.67; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 2.70; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 2.82; Chase Ingram, Columbia, 3.00.
Wins: Casey Delgado, St. Lucie, 4; P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 3; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 3; Ricky Knapp, St. Lucie, 3.
Saves: Paul Sewald, Vegas, 3; Akeel Morris, Binghamton, 2; Beck Wheeler, Binghamton, 2; Ty Bashlor, Columbia, 2; Johnny Magliozzi, Columbia, 2; Kevin McGowan, St. Lucie, 2; Corey Taylor, St. Lucie, 2.
Strikeouts: Chase Ingram, Columbia, 30; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 28; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 25; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 25.
The third player acquired in the trade for R.A. Dickey with Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud is off to a torrid start. Wuilmer Becerra, 21, is hitting a Florida State League-best .400 with 10 RBIs in 70 at-bats. Becerra had been serving as the designated hitter with St. Lucie because of shoulder soreness, but returned to right field on Tuesday for the first time since April 9. He has a nine-game hitting streak.
Columbia outfielder Tucker Tharp, a 30th-round pick in 2014 out of the University of Kansas, underwent surgery to repair multiple facial fractures after getting hit by a pitch by Lexington’s Scott Blewett on April 28. Tharp’s vision was unaffected, although he did suffer an orbital fracture.
Jeff McNeil, who finished second in the Florida State League in batting average in 2015, was expected to undergo sports hernia surgery. McNeil played three games with Binghamton before landing on the disabled list. McNeil had bulked up during the offseason, gaining 35 pounds.
A trio of first-round picks are heating up. Brandon Nimmo is 9-for-19 during his current five-game hitting streak to lift his average to .268 with Las Vegas. Gavin Cecchini is 13-for-22 during his current six-game hitting streak to lift his average to .299 with the Pacific Coast League club. Meanwhile, at Binghamton, notoriously slow starter Dominic Smith has raised his average 101 points, to .275, since April 20. Smith has 13 RBIs in his last 10 games.
The St. Lucie Mets are rallying around the wife of manager Luis Rojas, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The team recently posed for a photo in pink T-shirts that read “Team Laura.” Rojas continues to manage the club.
Mets officials are pleased by right-hander Gabriel Ynoa’s command with Las Vegas. Ynoa is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in five starts. Opponents are hitting only .204 and have not homered against him in 30⅔ innings in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
The Mets are not ready to move 20-year-old shortstop phenom Amed Rosario to Binghamton just yet, but the internal discussions have begun. Rosario leads the Florida State League in total bases (54) and triples (five). He is hitting .308 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 104 at-bats with St. Lucie.
Dilson Herrera returned from a sore lower back with a bang. After being out of the starting lineup for a week, Herrera went 4-for-6 with a triple, two homers and five RBIs on Tuesday at El Paso.
Former independent ball pitcher Casey Delgado is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts with St. Lucie. In each of his last two starts, he has been supported by a homer from fellow independent-ball alum Kevin Taylor. Delgado and Taylor were teammates at Traverse City in the Frontier League.
Kevin McGowan has a 1.23 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 14⅔ innings with St. Lucie as he has transitioned from the rotation to a relief role this season. He has experienced increased velocity out of the bullpen.
The Florida State League officially began using pitch clocks this week after testing it in April. In the opening two games with it in effect, there were no automatic ball or strike calls involving St. Lucie. Josh Prevost did successfully contest an automatic ball call against him Monday and had it overruled.
Through five starts with Binghamton, Robert Gsellman has compiled a 2.93 groundout/flyout ratio -- the second-best among qualifiers in the Eastern League. He is 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA in five starts.
Recently christened Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies, marks quite a change from the spacious stadium the Mets’ South Atlantic League affiliate played in last season in Savannah, Georgia. Twenty-five homers have been hit in 14 games in Columbia. That long-ball total ranks eighth among minor league ballparks.
“Farm Report” appears on Wednesdays during the regular season.