Sterling Thompson focuses on team success

Sterlin Thompson sparked interest from pro scouts ahead of the 2020 MLB Draft. But due to MLB limiting the draft to just five rounds, the high schooler from Florida went undrafted.

Thompson joined the University of Florida baseball program in the fall of 2020. Participating in one of the top programs in the country has worked well for Thompson, who had a very productive freshman year last season. The draft-eligible sophomore outfielder has developed his skills and improved his draft status ahead of the 2022 draft.

Scouts are projecting Thompson as a potential early-round pick in this year’s draft. Despite the attention, Thompson is doing his best to focus on Florida’s success this season.

“I’m not focused on the draft right now because I just want to come together as a team and focus on going to Omaha,” Thompson said. “After the season, everything will be decided. I’m just really focused on the team aspect right now.

As a freshman last year, Thompson was an everyday player for Florida. He produced at a high level, hitting .301 with 10 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 27 RBIs in 183 at-bats in 55 games.

Thompson is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound left-handed hitter who uses a short, compact swing to drive the ball across all terrains. He has a keen striking sense and an advanced approach to home plate. He has noticeable raw power, but that didn’t show in games last year as he was more of a line hitter.

This spring, Thompson hopes to show off a more refined two-step approach. He squares fastballs consistently, but sometimes struggles with off-speed pitches. He thinks his off-season work will help him keep his bat in the zone longer, so he can make better contact against off-speed pitches.

“My greatest strength is my natural striking ability,” Thompson said. “I’m just a pure hitter who can hit the ball on any court with a mature approach. I just try to hit it in the middle of the field and take what the pitcher gives me. I’m very still in my stance and try to have a short swing and line shots.

In high school, Thompson was a shortstop. Although he only played in the infield during his prep career, Florida moved Thompson to the outfield last season due to the team’s blocking of talented infielders.

Thompson has made his 54 appearances as a rookie in right field. It took time for Thompson to acclimate to the position, but it worked well and allowed him to receive playing time immediately as a rookie.

Thompson will likely spend most of his time in right field this season. But he sometimes plans to move around the diamond and play other positions, he said. He received reps on the field in practice, including seeing time at third base in the fall.

“This year I will be more versatile,” Thompson said. “I think it will be heavier in the outfield with me starting in right field. I worked in the infield and outfield until this season. My versatility is one of my strengths.

Thompson hopes his off-season work will allow him to take a step forward in his development this season. He will play an important role for Florida because of his striking ability and versatility.

Expectations were high for Florida last season. The Gators were the No. 1 unanimous preseason team in the nation. They didn’t necessarily meet preseason expectations, as their season ended in the NCAA region. They hosted the regional but lost to South Florida and South Alabama to finish with a 38-22 record.

This season, the Gators have another talented team. They hope to learn from the adversity they faced last year and win the program’s second national championship this season.

“As a team, there’s a lot of unfinished business after losing at home last season,” Thompson said. “We have a chip on our shoulder heading into this season. We have the will to pursue this sole objective.

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Video by Sterling Thompson.

Dan Zielinski III covered the MLB Draft for seven years. He interviewed 356 top draft prospects during that span, including four first-overall picks. Several publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, and The Arizona Republic, have cited his work, as he appeared on radio stations as an “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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