For a school that isn’t typically considered a baseball powerhouse, The Citadel, who’s churned out just five big leaguers since 1965 including current assistant coach Britt Reames, is harboring one of the better sleeper prospects in this year’s draft class – junior first baseman Leonard “Bo” Thompson.
An absolute monster of man, someone who, according to my late grandfather, would be described as being built like a brick shithouse, Thompson stands just 5-foot-10 but a rock-sturdy 255 pounds. It would be what one would describe as a “hard 255” thanks to his offseason workout regimen, one that would eventually lead to the strength coaches “watching closely” out of fear that Thompson would get too big, lose too much flexibility.
His preseason workouts – he never used the word “offseason” – are more of the “meat and potatoes” variety, focusing on “getting bigger, faster, and stronger.” Whereas the in-season work is more flexibility based with the likes of “stretching and yoga-type” workouts.
That hard work helped transform Thompson from a solid offensive contributor during his freshman season (.261/.372/.345) into one of the more feared bats in all of college baseball last year.
In helping to lead the Bulldogs to a 35-25 record in 2013, Thompson, who paired with childhood buddy and Texas Rangers fifth round pick Joe Jackson, finished the year with the sixth most walks (54) and 20th in homeruns (14) in Division I baseball en route to hitting .299/.472/.567. His park-and-schedule adjusted Weighted On Base Average, or wOBA, was .480, just four points fewer than 2013 first rounder D.J. Peterson (CollegeSplits.com).
Thompson’s offensive explosion led to his inclusion in the 2013 Homerun Derby, which featured a mini rivalry between two other players from the state of South Carolina – Clemson backstop Garrett Boulware and South Carolina Gamecock Joey Pankake, both of whom figure to go fairly early in this year’s draft.
As for Thompson, well, that remains a mystery.
“I have heard some whispers of me possibly getting picked up [this year], which would be the ultimate goal and my dream. While playing at The Citadel, people are always talking about the legends that have come through like Dallas McPhearson, Joe Jackson, and Asher Wojciechowski, which were all high draft guys.”
Through the Bulldogs’ first 53 games, Thompson is batting .302/.463/.436 with seven homeruns and an incredible 20 HBPs.
“Getting plunked has become a big thing for me this year. Pitchers have started challenging me inside more and more.” Coach Fred Jordan, of course, “normally jokes with us, saying, ‘We got ice.’”
As Major League Baseball enters another year of pitcher domination, Thompson’s particular skillset – the power/patience combo – is something that’s been en vogue since the early days of Moneyball.
“Plate discipline is preached heavily by our coaches. I don’t go up to the plate looking to get a walk, but I’m definitely making sure I get a pitch that I can put a good swing on and drive it into the gaps of left center and right center.”
The work ethic. The approach. The power. The plate discipline.
Bo Thompson is one of the more underrated performers in college baseball over the last two seasons. Here’s hoping he gets his shot to show what he can do with the wood, something he “loves” to do.
“There’s nothing better than squaring up a ball with a good piece of wood.”
Photo Courtesy of postandcourier.com.