Coming into June’s MLB draft, the revamped Marlins front office was determined to ignite this rebuild with a strong draft. With four picks in the first 90 selections, Miami was flush with options. After landing several of their top targets with the first three picks, Tristan Pompey heard his name come off the board at No. 89.
The switch-hitting outfielder from the University of Kentucky could be the steal of the entire 2018 draft class.
Pompey has some LOUD tools. The younger brother of Dalton Pompey, an outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, he comes from an athletic upbringing. The Canadian took to baseball early and began switch hitting at age five. Tristan really put his name on the map in high school as an All-Star in the prestigious Tournament 12. He then earned himself a spot on Canada’s Junior National team the summer of his senior year of high school, leading them to the World Championships.
Following graduation, Pompey was drafted in the 31st round by Minnesota Twins, but honored his commitment of UK instead of going pro. It proved to be an excellent decision.
Bursting onto the scene starting 43 games as a freshman in 2016, Pompey slashed a modest .233/.328/.440 while showing raw power potential. Setting a school record the following season with 266 at-bats in 66 games, he hit a ridiculous .361 with 28 extra-base hits. He received first team All-SEC and third team All-American recognition. His junior year was more of the same: 27 extra-base hits and double-digit steals for the only time in his career, leaving no doubt that he’d be coveted by major league teams.
Leading up to the draft, there were rumblings that Pompey could possibly go in the first round due to his high ceiling and production against quality competition. The Marlins were blessed to see him fall into their hands in the third round.
The @Marlins collecting Cats in South Beach: @lavsav_ selected in the 3rd round by the Marlins, joining @_Riddler_10 and @RizzMahan in the organization. Congrats, Pomp! #WeAreUK #MLBTrainingGround pic.twitter.com/2F0j0RIpzX— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 5, 2018
After reporting to rookie ball for the GCL Marlins, it only took a week to realize he needed another challenge. The organization aggressively promoted him to Low-A Greensboro in early July. In 24 games with the Grasshoppers, Pompey hit .314/.422/.430 with 9 RBI while being named the South Atlantic League Player of the Week as well.
Exactly a month after his promotion to Greensboro, we have another warranted advancement to High-A Jupiter. Pompey reached base four times in his Hammerheads debut on Tuesday with a booming double and two walks.
I was able to sit down with Tristan after batting practice on Wednesday afternoon so that he could properly introduce himself to Marlins fans.
Having an older brother playing baseball, was Dalton the reason why you started playing the game?
It’s actually my parents who kinda got me into the game. Me, him and my mom would play every sport growing up and the ones we liked the most are the ones we played. Dalton liked baseball and I actually liked soccer, but since he was playing baseball, I kinda just fell in.
After seeing him get drafted in 2010 when you were only 13, can you remember what that experience was like? And if it pushed you to have the same?
It was pretty cool when he got drafted. We were actually playing video game in the basement and we had the draft and podcasts on in the background. We heard my brother’s name but we weren’t sure, so we ran upstairs to our parents to find out he got drafted to the Blue Jays, which was a pretty crazy experience. Now going into my draft experience, he said it felt like he was getting drafted again cause he’s helped me a lot with my game, so he takes a sense of pride in it as well.
In 2015 with the Canada Junior National team, you got the chance to play a spring game against your brother and the Blue Jays, What was that experience like?
That was pretty awesome. You know were four-and-a-half years age difference, so I’ve never got to play with or against him really, so in the one time we actually get to play, the first play of the game he hits a fly ball out to me. It just worked out perfectly and the crowd was really cheering for it . It was really quite the experience, thinking about the future. Maybe Team Canada or playing against him.
Following that summer, you get drafted in the 31st round to the Twins, but rather decide to take a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. How easy was that decision?
Pretty easy, honestly. I had a set area, or set number I wanted to get drafted in. Once that didn’t work out, I wasn’t disappointed at all. I knew I was going to the best college in the best conference and I had nothing to be down about, right? I got drafted the first time, which not a lot of people get the chance to do and I get to go play SEC baseball.
A .413 OBP along with 71 extra-base hits against the pitching in the country is no joke. How do you feel the SEC prepared you for the next level?
Definitely changed my entire life. Coming in there as a freshman, I really got exposed. Struck out a lot and found myself—what I wasn’t good and what I was good at. Kinda took it to the next 2 years, and just continued to progress and obviously being a top hitter in the SEC over those years is humbling and it’s also a great experience because they gain respect for you. Going to opposing schools where the teams and fans know you is a pretty cool feeling.
Your speed has always been a plus tool for you, but your ability to drive the ball to all fields seems to be more impressive to me. What do you feel some of your best assets are?
Hitting from both sides. Growing up my dad would make me go an hour a day just hitting. That’s what it was. If you can hit, they’re always gonna find a place for you in the lineup, and that’s what my dads always preached. As long as you continue to produce offensively there going to find a spot for you someway somehow.
Leading up the draft, there was talk of you possibly going in the first round. After the slight disappointment of not being selected, how was the night following that round?
It definitely was a little disappointing. I had higher expectations for myself, obviously. My brother told me, “You know, I was a 15th-rounder, you’re going first thing tomorrow.” He took me out for the night, told me to forget about tonight and just look forward to the future. Once you get drafted, everyone is kinda even keel. Only thing that changes is about how much money you will get with that slot and maybe more chances, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first pick or the last pick.
It’s the next day, and Pick #89 comes around. How do you describe that feeling?
It was pretty awesome. I got the call and they said I was going to Miami and I set my sights on what’s next for me. I hugged my parents and my brother, and we kinda just walked around the city. Got breakfast after, it was cool to be there with my family knowing I was going with an organization with new direction was pretty awesome.
After arriving in Jupiter for rookie ball, I remember you having to wait for your work visa to come in. How frustrating were those few weeks?
It definitely started to get frustrating towards the end of it. I know that’s the process Canadians have to go through and I knew I was going to have to wait, it was just a matter of how long. Everyone has a different time they have to wait, but I was definitely getting eager to play.
Well as soon as you got the field, it’s been results. After only 4 games in the GCL, you get promoted to Greensboro where you hit .314 in 24 games. All that does is earn you another promotion to Jupiter. How does it feel having the team rewarding your results?
It’s awesome knowing they’re taking notice of my skills and abilities. Just trying to trust the process and really trying to play my game. Not putting any pressure on myself, having fun and things will just take care of themselves as long as I keep doing what I’m doing.
The Hammerheads now have three Kentucky alumni on the roster with yourself joining Riley Mahan and Dustin Beggs. How nice will it be to have those guys in the clubhouse?
Oh, it’s awesome. When I first got here, we connected right away. Three ‘Cats on one team is pretty awesome, and who knows if we all end up making it. We have like six ‘Cats in the organization now, so Kentucky has a strong presence in Miami now.
Looking for an MLB team to cheer for? We've got the Marlins (@lavsav_, @RizzMahan, @dbizzzzle, @_Riddler_10) and/or Dodgers (@lukeheyer2, @RuX_e40, @pop_zach, @LoganSalow28, @Cheady_7) covered. #WeAreUK #MLBTrainingGround— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 6, 2018
Moving forward to the last couple of the months of the season. What are some of your goals for yourself to end the year?
Keep doing what I’m doing: go out and have fun every day. Play the game I love to play and not put pressure on myself. Let things take its course and do it what you’re meant to do.
With being apart of something special that the Marlins are building, how excited are you to be apart of the future of Miami?
Really excited, actually. I got to talk to some of the higher-ups in the organization and to hear the expectations and goals for the future. It seems like a perfect fit for me, being able to help the team a lot on and off the field with the brand they are trying to create.
Switch-hitting is amazing to me. How did you decide to do that? And do you feel more comfortable on a certain side of the plate?
My mom actually read in a magazine on a airline that it was better to teach your kids to switch hit. As soon as the plane landed she’s telling my dad that we should teach Dalton to bat switch, and I just kinda along his footsteps. Some days it’s the left side and some days it’s the right but it really depends how I feel that day because I believe I’m strong from both sides.
Of course I have to ask where the “Lavish Savage” nickname comes from?
You know it’s quite the bold name. I was back home, and with my brother playing for Toronto, he’s got a lot of leverage in the city. So me being the younger brother, one of my good friends actually was just like, “You live such a lavish lifestyle, but your mentality is just so committed and bold.” So he just put it together to the Lavish Savage and it just stuck. That’s all I try to do in life: live life and just have a savage mentality the way I go about my day.
When you consistently blow past every obstacle, I guess a bold nickname is appropriate. Tristan Pompey is a welcome addition to Miami’s system—an extremely humble star pushing his way through the ranks.
If he stays on his current path, the Lavish Savage could spend much of first full pro season with Double-A Jacksonville, with the major leagues not far beyond that.
You can follow Pompey on Instagram (thelavishsavage_) and Twitter (@lavsav_).