Justice Thompson showed growth and intriguing potential in his two years at the junior college level in 2019 and 2020.
That success has carried over to the Division I level this spring. Thompson transferred to the University of North Carolina and is off to a tremendous start this season. The North Carolina center fielder has played well in all facets of the game to enhance his MLB draft stock through the first two months of the season.
Scouts project Thompson as a potential top-three-round pick in July’s draft.
“The draft is one of the last of my worries right now,” Thompson said. “I don’t look too much at that. I feel like if I pay too much attention to it right now that it will get in the way of what we have going on here at Carolina.”
Thompson started his collegiate career at Northwest Florida State College. As a freshman in 2019, Thompson posted a .337 batting average with eight doubles, three triples, five home runs and 24 RBIs in 95 at-bats in 42 games.
In his second year at Northwest Florida, Thompson hit .344 with five doubles, three triples, two home runs and 14 RBIs in 64 at-bats in 20 games.
This season, Thompson is hitting .343 with four doubles, four home runs and eight RBIs in 70 at-bats in 18 games. He has drawn 11 walks while striking out 19 times. Thompson also has been a threat on the bases, stealing eight bases.
Thompson is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder who’s known for his defensive abilities. He has speed, notable route-running ability and respectable arm strength to profile in all three outfield positions defensively.
Thompson believes he can stick in center field long-term.
“My biggest strength in my game right now is my defensive ability,” Thompson said. “I take pride in that the most. I guess me being able to play the intense level of defense that I do makes the game easier.”
Thompson’s defensive skills have been on display this season. On March 16 against Liberty, he robbed a home run on a play where he had to drift to his left before jumping at the wall to make the catch.
“I was just praying that it didn’t go out,” said Thompson on the catch. “They were hitting a lot of balls hard, and I wanted to put an end to it. Thank God I caught it.”
Offensively, Thompson, a right-handed hitter, displays above-average raw power. There are some swing-and-miss concerns, but Thompson has the potential to be a solid hitter in the pro ranks if he can refine his mechanics and approach.
In his time at UNC, Thompson believes he has made strides in his mentality at the plate.
“I think the biggest thing for me has been my mindset,” Thompson said. “I like to have fun and compete. Each time when I step into the box, I tell myself that I don’t care who is on the mound, that I just want to go out there and put my ‘A’ swing on whatever he throws me.”
North Carolina is one of the top teams in the country. Thompson believes the Tar Heels have the talent and potential to qualify for the College World Series for the first time since 2018 this season.
“For us, it is just putting all the pieces together,” Thompson said. “We have enough talent to match up with anyone in the country. If everyone is doing what they are supposed to do, I don’t think anyone can stop us. It is just a matter of time until we connect all the pieces.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three 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.