There are quite a few 18-year-old Shaqs running around these days, courtesy of O’Neal’s exploding popularity in the early-90s. The Red Sox are reportedly set to land one of the fastest, 18th-round pick Shaq Thompson.
Thompson was rated the state of California’s top football recruit and the nation’s No. 1 safety by Rivals.com. He initially committed to Cal, but the Bears frowned on his desire to play baseball and he ended up picking the University of Washington instead. That’s still the plan; he’ll play baseball in the summer and go to school the rest of the year.
In the end, Thompson will probably end up a football player. He’s a very raw baseball talent, and he has all of the tools to become a first-round pick in the NFL three years down the line. The Red Sox, though, probably aren’t gambling more than $100,000 on him here, and since he does have a legitimate desire to play baseball, that seems like a bargain, given his raw strength and his ability to fly in center field.
Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.
Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.
Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.