Colby Thomas didn’t receive interest from professional scouts until his senior year of high school. The Georgia native garnered attention from the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals leading up to the 2019 MLB draft, with the Orioles selecting him in the 37th round of the draft.
Thomas knew it was best to attend Mercer University, a quality mid-major program in Georgia, and develop his skills in hopes of pursuing a pro career after college.
The decision to go to Mercer has paid off for Thomas, who showed five-tool potential in his first three years of college. The outfielder’s development has caused scouts to consider him a top prospect for July’s draft and a potential second or third-round pick.
“This year, I knew I shouldn’t worry about the scouts and just play my game,” Thomas said. “When I saw the scouts in the stands and taking videos, I knew it was go time. It was so awesome talking to scouts about pro ball in the future. It’s been a dream. It’s been awesome.”
Thomas provided an impact for Mercer right away as a freshman in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He hit .333 with nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBIs in 69 at-bats in 16 games.
Last year, Thomas showed flashes of his potential, despite experiencing some struggles. He posted a .247 batting average with 12 doubles, 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 190 at-bats in 53 games.
Thomas used last season as a learning experience, which helped him throughout his junior season this spring. He simplified his approach and regained his confidence to take a significant step forward this season. He hit .325 with 14 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 169 at-bats in 42 games.
Besides improving his offensive production, he improved his plate discipline, tallying more walks (34) than strikeouts (32) this spring. As a sophomore, Thomas recorded 53 strikeouts compared to 24 walks in 2021.
Thomas is a 6-foot, 190-pound right-handed hitter that is extremely aggressive and hits for above-average power. Scouts are optimistic that Thomas will continue to improve his hit tool in pro ball.
Thomas is currently recovering from a torn labrum injury he suffered in May. Once he is healthy, Thomas wants to work on hitting breaking pitches.
“The power makes me the player I am,” Thomas said. “The power and hand speed helps me out. I can hit balls harder than most people.”
Thomas is athletic with solid speed and above-average arm strength. He played left and right field at Mercer after playing second base and outfield in high school.
Although he only played five games in center field between Mercer and the Cape Cod League, scouts believe Thomas can handle center field in the pro ranks. They also are intrigued by Thomas’ potential at second base.
“I fit in center field because of my speed and arm strength,” Thomas said. “Many teams have asked me about second base and if I can still play there. I feel like I can play there and will play any position a team needs me to play. With enough practice, I can play anywhere.”
Thomas will likely be Mercer’s highest draft pick since the Seattle Mariners selected outfielder Kyle Lewis in the first round in 2016.
He believes the ability to play immediately as a freshman and receive opportunities to contribute, even when he struggled, led to him developing into the player he has become during his time at Mercer.
“If you don’t have the big offer, there is nothing wrong with going to a mid-major,” Thomas said. “I went to Mercer, besides the coaches, because I saw Kyle Lewis on the wall. I thought, ‘If Kyle Lewis can do it, why can’t I do it?’ To make it big, you don’t have to be at Vanderbilt, Georgia, or Florida. If you are the right player, they will find you.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.