Florida Gators in MLB Draft: Ocala's Sterlin Thompson selected in first round by Colorado

Special to Gator Sports

Sterlin Thompson of Ocala is now the highest-drafted outfielder in Florida Gators baseball history, as the Colorado Rockies selected him Sunday night with the 31st overall pick in the compensatory phase of the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft.

He was one of three Gators selected on day one of the draft with Hunter Barco (Jacksonville) and Jud Fabian (Ocala).

Thompson is the 17th first-round pick in program history and the Gators' first since producing a trio of first-rounders in 2018: Jonathan India (fifth overall), Brady Singer (18th) and Jackson Kowar (33rd). Since Coach Kevin O'Sullivan's arrival in 2008, UF's 11 first-round draft picks rank second nationally.

In being drafted 31st, Thompson surpasses Brad Wilkerson (33rd in 1998) as the top Gators outfielder to be drafted. 

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Florida's Sterlin Thompson (26) celebrates after he hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. May 17, 2022, at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville. Florida beat FSU 7-5.

Sterlin Thompson: 'It's a dream come true'

Thompson was born in Colorado so he has long been a fan of the Rockies, including his favorite player, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

“I loved the Colorado Rockies, a lot. I remember being 6 years old and wearing my Rockies hat, admiring Tulowitzki,” Thompson told “It’s a dream come true to be a Rockie, to see it happen today at 21 years old.”

Thompson had a career year in 2022, batting .354/.443/.563 with 90 hits, 11 home runs, two triples, 16 doubles, 59 runs, 51 RBI and 10 stolen bases. After hitting five homers as a freshman in 2021, he more than doubled his home run output as a sophomore while connecting for 29 extra-base hits. On top of setting a career high in home runs, the outfielder/infielder also notched personal bests in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, hits, doubles, runs, RBI, walks, sacrifice flies (six) and steals while leading the Gators in doubles and stolen bases.

The 2021 Freshman All-SEC recipient closed out 2022 in style, earning NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team honors. During his two years with UF, Thompson hit a combined .332/.424/.524 with 145 hits, 16 home runs, five triples, 26 doubles, 98 runs, 78 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He played in 121 games for the Gators with 117 starts.

Hunter Barco, Jud Fabian also drafted

Hunter Barco starts for the Gators against Liberty University, Feb. 18, 2022, at Florida Ballpark in Gainesville, Florida.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected left-hander pitcher Hunter Barco with the 44th overall pick in the second round on Sunday night. Barco becomes the 12th-highest Gators pitcher to be drafted and tied for the 19th-highest draft pick in program history. Barco is also 19th pitcher to be drafted in the first five rounds out of UF since O'Sullivan's 2008 arrival in Gainesville.

Prior to undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in early May, Barco was in the midst of a stellar campaign. Through his first nine starts, the southpaw was 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA and .187 batting average against across 50 1/3 innings. Barco also struck out 69 batters while walking just 11, translating to 12.3 strikeouts per nine, 1.9 walks per nine and a 6.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Barco peaked at No. 1 nationally in D1Baseball's starting pitcher power rankings in April and claimed SEC Pitcher of the Week honors, as well as Dick Howser Trophy National Pitcher of the Week status, on Feb. 21.

During three seasons in Gainesville, the Jacksonville native compiled a 17-5 record with a 3.18 ERA over 152 2/3 frames. Barco boasts 189 career strikeouts with just 43 walks on his resume. He concludes his Gators career ranking second all-time in strikeouts per nine innings (11.14), fifth in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (7.19), sixth in winning percentage (.773, 17-5) and tied for seventh in opponent batting average (.213).

Florida outfielder Jud Fabian (4) dives and catches the ball for the third out in the top of the sixth inning against USF, May 3, 2022, at Condron Family Ballpark.

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UF outfielderJud Fabian was chosen by the Baltimore Orioles with the 67th overall pick in the competitive balance portion of the second round. This is the second time Fabian has been drafted; he went 40th overall in the second round to the Boston Red Sox in 2021. With the selection, Fabian ranks as the fifth-highest Gators outfielder to be drafted and the 27th-highest draft pick in school history.

In 2022, Fabian became the second Gator in program history to hit 20-or-more home runs in consecutive seasons alongside Brad Wilkerson, who accomplished the feat from 1997-98. Fabian followed his 20-homer 2021 campaign with a 24-homer season in 2022, which ranked second in the SEC behind teammate Wyatt Langford (26).

Fabian concluded his four seasons with UF with 56 homers, which ranks third all-time in program history. The former All-American outfielder is a career .246/.384/.541 hitter, racking up 171 base knocks, 35 doubles, 165 runs, 140 RBI, 143 walks (fifth all-time) and 24 stolen bases as a Gator.