Leading up to Day 1 of the MLB Draft on June 12, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be first-rounders. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is Bubba Thompson, an outfielder from McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Alabama. The 6-foot-2, 180 lb. Thompson was a star quarterback in high school, receiving offers from Ole Miss and Tennessee to play football before deciding to play baseball at Alabama.
Thompson is projected to go to the Dodgers with the 23rd overall pick in our latest composite mock draft, with MLB.com, ESPN and Baseball America all pegging him to go to Los Angeles at No. 23. Be sure to check out Thompson’s full scouting report over at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize you loved playing the game?
"My dad started me off younger. I was about three or four when I started playing baseball, football and a little basketball. I put basketball off after eighth grade but I started loving football and baseball and kept it going until high school.”
Growing up, which major-league team was your favorite? Favorite player?
"The Boston Red Sox. I like Mookie Betts.”
For you, what was the turning point moment when you realized you could turn pro and potentially be a first-round pick?
"Just going to all the showcases and in high school, just playing my game. Everything really worked out for the best. Seeing that I could play with those guys when I went to those showcases, being an underclassman and seeing where I stood with those guys. When high school came, I just played my game and all of it just hit.”
Getting scholarship offers to play quarterback at big SEC schools like Ole Miss and Tennessee is impressive, but you turned those down. What led to your decision to focus on baseball long-term?
"I think that’s just where my future is. I love baseball... well, I also love football. I think my heart was leading me to baseball so that’s where I went.”
How can your skills as a quarterback help you in baseball as an outfielder and a team leader?
"Being a quarterback, you’re the man on the field and everybody looks at you to do the right things on and off the field. Just trying to be a leader, that’s what it made me.”
Your recruitment process was a unique one, as you originally committed to Auburn for baseball, flirted with the idea of playing both sports and then ended up committing to Alabama for baseball. What went into deciding on Alabama at the end?
"Both schools [Auburn and Alabama] are wonderful. I love both. It was just the opportunity I had at Alabama... a better offer and all that good stuff. There’s a lot that went into it.”
Growing up, were you an Auburn fan or an Alabama fan?
"I was an Auburn fan growing up.”
What’s your biggest strength as a player?
"My speed, my defense. In the outfield, I love to chase balls down. I have a passion for doing that, helping my pitcher out when the ball is hit in the gap. I love just running them down. My strength is really speed.”
MLB.com gave you a 65-grade on speed heading into the draft. Where does that speed come from?
"It’s always been there but I’m still working on it now. Speed training, still just trying to get my technique down.”
Your high school coach was teammates in the minor leagues with Deion Sanders, which is a coincidence considering you’re a speedy two-sport athlete as well. How often does he compare you guys?
"He’s told me a few stories, I obviously like the comparison. It’s just made me work harder each and every day. Trying to get up there.”
You’ve said your biggest strength is speed, but what is the part of your game that needs the most work as you approach the next level?
"I try to work on every part of my skill that needs to be worked on. That’s just the kind of person I am. I want to be perfect in all of my game. Each and everyday I work on everything that I take to the field.”
It’s tough to project at this point, but do you have expectations of where you’ll be selected in the draft?
"I don’t. I know God has a plan for me and I’m just looking forward to it. I’m gonna keep working, and whatever happens, happens. Hopefully it’s the best thing that fits me and my family.”
If you had to pick a major-league player you believe you’re most similar to, who would that be?
"A little bit of Mookie Betts, I think. Probably some Matt Kemp. I can show a little power here and there. Mookie is a line-drive hitter.”
You’re obviously not finishing high school in the normal way kids do, with a huge payday likely right around the corner and all of the draft prep coming at the same time as graduation. Have you felt things change at school, with people realizing what’s coming soon for you?
"A few people. That’s gonna happen. I picked this sport and all that came with it. I’m glad I’m in this situation by the grade of God. Really I just try to stay modest and humble and let everything come.”
There’s been a lot of talk about football injuries and concussions causing long-term risks recently...did any of that play into your decision to play baseball professionally?
"It did. But also, just knowing I have my future in this.”