With eight and a half weeks of the college baseball season in the books, we are officially past the midpoint of the regular season. An everyday position player should have roughly 130 at-bats or so under his belt, which is where pants are located, meaning said player is now wearing approximately 650 pitches as slacks. Depending on how many holes are in that swing, that may or may not be family-friendly attire. Transitioning to the mound, a healthy weekend starter should be coming off his eighth start of the year. That’s enough data to begin moving prospects up and down the rankings, especially those who opened the season outside of our Preseason Top 25 College Prospects for the 2022 MLB Draft and are now firmly in that conversation — if not written into it with a big, fat, smelly Sharpie that makes Billy, your asthmatic friend from second grade, have to take yet another trip to the nurse’s office. The first of the three players I’ll discuss today falls into the latter category, while the second prospect is on the brink. The third has yet to sniff that territory, but that’s a matter of draft leverage more than it is a reflection on his pure talent level. All three emerging college prospects will make their Razzball debuts in this week’s Collegiate Corner, and I urge you to follow up with the analysis in the comments section. Grab some fresh pants, tighten your belt buckles, grab a Sharpie and a clothespin for Billy’s nose, and let’s get to it.
Sterlin Thompson | OF | Florida | 6-4 | 200
Thompson was a top-200 prospect as a prep player in 2020 but has emerged as a top-100 prospect for the 2022 MLB Draft — which he is eligible for due to age as a second-year player at Florida. Thompson’s best skill is his advanced hit tool, which allowed him to bat .301/.396/.470 with five home runs and two steals as a true freshman. The left-handed swinging infielder-turned-outfielder has always possessed a surplus of raw power, but it has taken until his sophomore year of college for Thompson to begin to tap into it during games. In the first 33 games of the 2022 campaign, Thompson is slashing .338/.407/.577 with seven homers and two steals. By slugging .107 points higher than his freshman season while adding two homers to his total in 22 fewer games, Thompson is quickly moving up draft boards and should be graded as a first-rounder for any owner looking ahead to midsummer dynasty strategy and first-year player drafts. His power is graded out at 45, which may have been accurate for in-game pop coming into the year, but there’s no doubt there’s 60-grade raw power in Thompson’s bat, and as I mentioned before, it’s beginning to translate into games. Thompson is often overlooked due to the hype surrounding teammates Jud Fabian and Hunter Barco, but even though I am high on Fabian, Thompson may have a brighter future as an everyday big leaguer. Based on my evaluation, Thompson is a near-lock to be an everyday corner outfielder at the MLB level, and it’s a fairly safe projection given his skillset. His defense in the outfield could use some work, but I’m not going to get hung up on that with a guy who owns an 18.2% strikeout rate in his college career. If Thompson somehow falls outside of the first round, don’t let that impact your own personal valuation. He will be inside my updated top-25 prospects when the Complete College Top 100 comes out over the summer.
Florida 3B/RF Sterlin Thompson is having a DAY. His second homer of the game is a grand slam, and it's his second NUKE to dead-center.
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) February 19, 2022
Justin Campbell | RHP | Oklahoma State | 6-7 | 220
Very little has been written about Campbell as a top-tier draft prospect to this point, but he’s pitching himself into the first round with a strong third season with the Cowboys. The right-hander opened the year at No. 85 on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, but it’s safe to say he’s firmly inside the top 50-60 names now and could go higher as he continues to add velocity to his gargantuan frame. Campbell has a four-pitch mix (50-FB, 55-CB, 50-SL, 50-CH) but tends to rely on the fastball-curveball-changeup combination. Despite his stature, the fastball has hovered around 90 MPH with running action for the bulk of his collegiate innings, although the pitch sports strong metrics per the Tweet below (2,415 RPMs). Graded as his best offering, the curveball sits in the mid-to-high 70s, and he locates it well to both left and right-handed hitters. The kicker for Campbell is that he was a two-way player during his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, but has left that part of his game behind and focused solely on pitching in 2022 — even though he was a career .313/.422/.448 hitter in college. The results this season have undoubtedly increased his stock: 4-1, 50.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 13.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 5.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9. The strikeouts per nine have gone up by more than two batters per nine innings, from 10.9 in 2021, to 13.1 this season. Although he’s allowing nearly one more run per nine compared to last season (2.57 ERA in 84.0 IP), Campbell is allowing 1.4 fewer hits per nine and his walks have decreased slightly as well. With that, he’s also beginning to tap into the tank for enhanced velocity into the lower-90s, and there’s no reason why he can’t work into the mid-to-high 90s down the road as he hones his craft as a pitcher-only.
Entering first weekend of conference, SO RHP Justin Campbell @juhjuh162710 leads the Big 12 w/ 49 K's to just 9 BB's
2-1 2.15 ERA
Fastball .156 AVG | 36% WHIFF | 2415 AVG RPM
Curveball 30% WHIFF
Slider .125 | 44% WHIFF
Changeup .083 | 50% WHIFF
— Colton Lovelace (@colton_lovelac) March 21, 2022
Dominic Keegan | C/INF | Vanderbilt | 6-0 | 210
Keegan comes as a much different case when compared to prospects like Thompson and Campbell. While the previous two players represent the booming Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s, Keegan is a forgotten 1963 Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie that may or may not have a suitcase of Lindsey Logan’s snow in the trunk. As a fourth-year player in Nashville, Keegan won’t have a whole lot of leverage when the 2022 MLB Draft rolls around. Even though the COVID-shortened 2020 season gifted players like Keegan an extra year of eligibility to use in negotiations, he isn’t going back to the VandyBoys for a fifth year. Needless to say, the current season has done wonders for Keegan’s stock, even if he isn’t making any top draft prospect lists anywhere. Literally anywhere. Find him on one. Seriously, find him. Keegan didn’t hit or play much during his first two seasons but busted out to the tune of a .345/.427/.638 batting line last year with 15 home runs in 60 games. That prompted the New York Yankees to draft him in the 19th round, but he elected to return to Vanderbilt in an attempt to capture a College World Series title and bolster his draft stock. Although he’ll be 22 years old on draft day, he’s done just that in 2022: .417/.485/.696, 6 HR, 1 3B, 12 2B, 33 RBI, 25 R, 16.4 K%, 12.7 BB%. Hmmmm. Do I like a player who can slug nearly .700 with a minuscule 16.4 K% that draws walks at a 12.7% clip and gets on base nearly 50% of the time? Yes, I do. I especially like Keegan’s SEC-leading .417 average, which, even in 2022, is impossible to ignore when it occurs in college baseball’s premier conference and is achieved by a player with power. Keegan also slashed .302/.388/.651 with five homers in 13 games on the Cape last summer, so he’s shown an ability to slug with wood. When a player puts up numbers this noteworthy, you have to disregard the age factor and lack of draft leverage. Keegan is going to go rounds later than he should as a result of those two components, but it doesn’t mean you should overlook him like canned peaches on Thanksgiving. Instead, you should fill your appetite early on alongside everyone else, then circle back to the canned fruit once everyone else is full and farting themselves to sleep. Two-to-three years later, you’ll be thriving off peaches like Stanley Yelnats and make it famous off of Sploosh. Your great uncle Pooch might miss out, but you don’t have to.
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) March 20, 2022
That’s all for this week! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.