14. Sterlin Thompson (402 points, 24 ballots)
Fair or not, Thompson’s progress will be judged in part by Rockies fans by the fact his draft pick (31st overall in 2022) was the only compensation Colorado received for Trevor Story leaving in free agency, instead of a widely-assumed deadline trade. Thompson (who was born in Longmont) signed for a slot bonus of just over $2.43 million as a productive draft-eligible sophomore college hitter from the toughest conference in NCAA. The 21-year-old 6’4” lefty hitter, right-handed thrower split time between second base and the outfield in college at Florida, but as a professional he was played at third base or right field by the Rockies.
After Thompson hit .354/.443/.563 in his draft year in 305 PA with 11 homers for Florida, the Rockies assigned him to the complex league team in early August. He spent 15 games with the ACL team and played right-field exclusively, hitting .273/.328/.382 in 61 plate appearances (97 wRC+) before an opportunity with Low-A Fresno presented itself in late August. With Fresno, Thompson played 11 games down the stretch at third base exclusively, slashing an impressive /.348/.380/.500 with a homer and four doubles in 50 PA (124 wRC+).
Thompson struck out 28 times in 111 total PA against just five walks, but at least he drove the ball well in his limited 2022 professional cameo. A player with Thompson’s pedigree and hit tool is expected to dominate lower-minors pitching, so we’ll know much more once he gets more looks in full season ball, whether that be in High-A (probably as the third baseman if Warming Bernabel isn’t already there or even second base) or in Low-A to start 2023.
Here’s some video of Thompson from 2022 at Florida courtesy of Prospects Worldwide:
Baseball Prospectus ranked Thompson 15th in the system in November, listing him as an outfielder:
A Rockies Comp pick in last summer’s draft, Thompson broadly fits with what they tend to target in college bats—a corner masher with a bit more defensive versatility than you’d expect. Thompson didn’t take the jump his junior year some scouts expected, but he had a very nice season for the Gators while playing a fair bit of second base in addition to right field. The Rockies are giving him some run at third, and he’s a passable infielder at present, but his likely major league landing spot is in corner outfield. Thompson has a bit less power and is a bit less pull happy than [Jordan] Beck—while a better all-around hitter—but I have similar concerns about his bat speed and in-zone whiff, especially when his noisy swing gets out of sync.
Thompson has long shown a good feel for hitting from the left side of the plate with a very good approach. He can use the whole field and drive the ball to the gaps, rarely missing a fastball, though he struggles a bit more with softer stuff. The question in terms of his offensive profile comes in trying to project how much power he’ll have. There’s plenty of raw pop there and a sense he’ll gain strength with his 6-foot-3 frame, but he has more of a hit-over-power approach.
A shortstop in high school, Thompson played right field with Florida as a freshman and saw time there and at third this past fall, then played right and second base last spring. Most scouts feel an outfield corner is his best long-term home at the next level. Wherever he plays, it’s his left-handed bat that will carry him up the Rockies’ ladder.
Thompson has a sweet lefty swing and is adept at barrelling fastballs and sending them to all fields. He slugged .675 against them in 2022, per Synergy, and rarely ever misses an in-zone heater. He can drop the bat head and hit ones down-and-in, or flatten his path and drive heaters at the letters the other way. The same is not true against offspeed stuff, against which Thompson struggled (more whiffs than balls in play), though as a draft-eligible sophomore who also missed a ton of reps during his senior year of high school, it’s possible his pitch recognition will still improve. His frame is already quite physical, and Thompson has at least average raw power right now, but he still has room for more mass and could have plus raw at peak. He’s played second base and right field, and while it might be worth a shot to send him out at the keystone, he looked unplayable there at Florida. He’s also not a great right field defender and needs reps out there just to be average. He looks like the larger half of a corner outfield platoon (typically a 45 FV) with some yellow flags because of the defense and issues against non-fastballs.
Thompson would’ve likely been paid in 2020 had the pandemic allowed his season to go a month or two longer, but he raked for two years in the SEC. He has some chance to play a passable second base, but I wonder a bit about his pitch selection, especially identifying spin.
In Thompson, I see another hit-over-power prospect with uncertain defensive utility where the hit tool will need to carry him up the prospect ladder. Thompson appears to be a particularly good version of this prospect profile (he’s got decent raw power) and the hit tool is the most important one, but it certainly is a narrower path to success than I would like. Still, the pedigree and production were enough to rank Thompson 10th on my list as a 45 FV player.