Sterlin Thompson is Making Noise in 2023
The Arizona Fall League is a place that can be critical to the development of a prospect aiming for the big leagues. It gives a prospect more time in the season to continue their development in the hopes that they can break through and help the team in the near future. The Colorado Rockies have a long history of success in the AFL and Sterlin Thompson is looking to carry on that legacy in 2023.
Drafted 31st overall in 2022 in the first round out of the University of Florida, Thompson has quickly risen to Double-A in his first full season of professional ball. After not being selected in the shortened 2020 Draft, Thompson headed to Florida knowing he’d be eligible two years later as a sophomore. He hit in his two seasons as a Gator and he cemented himself as one of the better pure college hitters in the 2022 class after posting an OPS north of 1.000. The Rockies liked what they saw and scooped him up with the compensation pick they received for Trevor Story.
Thompson played 26 games of professional ball last season between the Arizona Complex League and the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies. Between the two levels, he batted .307/.351/.436, going 31-for-101 with seven doubles, two home runs, and 10 RBI. It was a fantastic debut stint for Thompson, setting the table for his first full season in 2023.
Starting the season with the High-A Spokane Indians, Thompson spent 60 games in the Pacific Northwest and went on to bat .323/.399/.520 with 22 doubles, seven home runs, and 39 RBI. A third of his games in Spokane were multi-hit games, including five games in which he had three hits and one game with four hits. His efforts resulted in a promotion to Double-A with the Hartford Yard Goats in early August. Like many hitters, the jump to Double-A was a difficult one for Thompson who ran into some adversity. In 34 games with Hartford, Thompson batted .238/.333/.429 with three doubles and 17 RBI while matching his Spokane home run total. In total, he slashed .293/.376/.487 with 14 home runs over the course of 94 games.
MLB Pipeline described Thompson’s offensive potential below:
“It’s hard not to like Thompson’s setup and swing from the left side of the plate. He has a very solid approach and sticks to his gameplan with conviction. He’s always been a hit-over-power type, one who hunts doubles and not home runs, but there’s plenty of extra-base authority for him to tap into. He’s never going to sell out for power, but 15 or more homers a year in the big leagues isn’t unreasonable.”
As evidenced by his production, Thompson put up 14 home runs in his first full season and is now up to 16 as a professional. There is still room to grow, but as they describe, he isn’t going to hunt the home runs. He’ll run into plenty but much like Rockies legend and future Hall of Famer Todd Helton, Thompson’s bread and butter can and should be the double. He managed 25 doubles in 2023, a fact that would take full advantage of the dimensions at Coors Field. When he was at his best in Spokane, Thompson maintained a 27.1% line drive rate and had a flyball rate of 35.6%. His struggles in Double-A mounted from an increase in groundballs, a problem that will have to be monitored going forward in his professional career.
Something that was also been encouraging in 2023 has been his strikeouts and walks. After striking out 28 times to just five walks in 2022, Thompson settled into a much more favorable display of plate discipline in 2023. Over the course of the season, he struck out a total of 74 times to 38 walks. In High-A alone he had a 0.55 BB/K ratio, while in Double-A he still produced a 0.47 BB/K ratio to show that his stats weren’t indicative of poor plate discipline.
Now, Thompson has the chance to continue growing offensively in the AFL. Entering Thursday, October 5, Thompson leads the entire AFL with a 1.581 OPS and is tied for the lead with five hits after just three games. He is also tied for the lead with four walks. It’s early in the proceedings but Thompson already looks fantastic with the Salt River Rafters and is making an early case to be the AFL MVP. The offense is encouraging and even more so is his progress in defensive versatility.
While in college, Thompson mainly played in the outfield, but the Rockies added third base back into his repertoire where he played 56 games with Spokane. Then with a move up to Hartford came the introduction of another defensive position, second base. Thompson had actually been a shortstop in high school and spent a good amount of time there in his college days. Thompson has been playing there more in the AFL, indicating that the Rockies are looking at all options of where he could play when the time comes. Adding second base to his tool bag gives the team options to get his bat into the lineup. The Rockies have plenty of outfield prospects, so Thompson’s future lies on the dirt. Should a trade involving Brendan Rodgers or Ryan McMahon occur, Thompson is on the cusp of taking those spots should the need arise.
Sterlin Thompson is quickly making noise in the Rockies system and will be another key part of the youthful surge of talent knocking on the door of the big league club. After losing 103 games in 2023, the Rockies’ top brass can’t put off taking advantage of the prospects on the way and giving them a chance to be heard.
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