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.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.
Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.
Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.