Mathias Lacombe was drafted in the 12th round and 359th overall by the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, becoming only the second French ball player to be selected by an MLB organization. The drafting of the lanky RHP, a product of France’s national academy in Toulouse, is the latest sign of the growing pipeline of French baseball talent.
Lacombe, who suited up the past two seasons for Cochise Junior College (AZ), caught the eye of White Sox scouts after an impressive 2023 campaign that saw him record a 1.74 ERA while striking out 97 batters and walking just 14 in 67.1 innings.
He has also suited up for the French national team, most recently at the 2022 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Regensburg, Germany, where he struck out two while surrendering three hits and one run in his lone inning of work.
Growing Pipeline of French Talent
Were he not to sign with the White Sox, Lacombe has committed to joining the Sun Belt Conference’s Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns for the 2023-2024 season. If he did make it to campus, Lacombe would become the second French ball player to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level, joining East Tennessee State University outfielder Leo Jimian at the highest level of amateur competition in the US. (Melissa Mayeux played softball at Louisana-Lafayette from 2020-2022.)
In recent years, the French Baseball and Softball Federation, like other European federations, has proactively sought to channel its top talent into the US collegiate system, with the additional experience gained by the players a key to deepening the pool of talent available for the national team.
According to the Federation’s website, there are currently 13 French athletes playing baseball at various levels in the US, with Julien Cojulun, who represented France at last year’s U18 European Championship, certain to become the 14th in due time.
No matter his future path, Lacombe, alongside his peers, is seen as a future building block of a French program that has it eyes firmly set on qualification for the World Baseball Classic.
“Play for the national team and succeed at the World Baseball Classic qualifier: That’s our goal in the next four years,” Boris Rothermundt, the assistant national technical director of the French Baseball and Softball Federation, told MLB.com.
“Mathias has been our future in terms of the World Baseball Classic qualifier, so we’ve got four years to build a team around [him] and around other players that have either university experience or professional experience. If we qualify for the next World Baseball Classic that will help us a lot for sure.”