The Cincinnati Reds have acquired outfielder Bubba Thompson from the Kansas City Royals after picking him up on waivers. The Reds are the third team that Thompson has been with since the start of 2023.
Bubba Thompson was a 1st round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2017 and he had been with the club ever since. But in the middle of August this past season the team placed him on waivers and he was claimed by Kansas City. They then placed him on waivers this week and Cincinnati put in a claim and was able to acquire him. His addition puts the club at 38 players on the 40-man roster, not including impending free agents or three players that are currently on the 60-day injured list and don’t count until after the World Series is completed.
Thompson has spent parts of the last two seasons in the big leagues. In 2022 he played in 55 games with the Texas Rangers and hit .265/.302/.312 while stealing 18 bases. This year he played in 37 games with the Rangers and hit .170/.237/.283 with four stolen bases. Only one game came after May – he was used as a pinch runner on July 30th against San Diego.
In the 2023 minor league season he played in 65 games at the Triple-A level and those games were split nearly evenly between Round Rock with Texas and Omaha with Kansas City. Omaha is very hitter friendly, while Round Rock was pitcher friendly compared to other parks in the Pacific Coast League. Thompson hit .260/.338/.395 in his 302 minor league plate appearances. He picked up 14 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 home runs to go along with 27 stolen bases in 32 attempts.
Thompson is known for his speed. Among all of the players in Major League Baseball last season he had the third highest average sprint speed in baseball – trailing just Bobby Witt Jr. and Elly De La Cruz. He had far fewer opportunities than those two did, but when he was out there and running, he showed speed that matched up with anyone in the game.
What he’s not known for is his bat. He’s shown very little power in the big leagues. He’s hit one home run in 241 big league plate appearances. There has been more power in the minor league for Thompson – he’s hit 51 home runs in 1861 plate appearances while on the farm. You can see his career stats here.
While average exit velocity isn’t as important as you may immediately think it is (the average exit velocity for a players top 10-15% of batted balls is far more important), Thompson’s 84.1 MPH average exit velocity is well below-average (88.4 MPH is the big league average). It was actually worse in Triple-A this season, coming in at 83.8 MPH.
During his big league time he’s also struck out quite a bit. His 30% strikeout rate would be more acceptable from a player with plenty of power, but when it’s coming from someone who has shown absolutely no power it’s an area of concern and one that must improve if he’s going to carve out a career that’s more than “pinch runner”.
When it comes to service time and options, that’s working in the Reds favor. Thompson is under team control through 2028. He also has two more option years available to use if needed.