Thompson making difficult decision even more so for Dodgers

Let’s face it, when the Dodgers acquired outfielder Trayce Thompson, pitcher Frankie Montas and second baseman Micah Johnson from the Chicago White Sox in the three-way deal that sent all-star third baseman Todd Frazier to Chicago from the Cincinnati Reds, and former Dodgers Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon and Scott Schebler to Cincinnati, Dodger fans immediately referred to (then) 24-year-old Trayce Thompson as “the brother of Golden State Warriors super star Klay Thompson” instead of the White Sox 2009 second-round draft pick, and with good cause – Klay Thompson is very very good basketball. But the (relatively) hidden truth is that Trayce Thompson is also very very good at baseball.

As noted, Thompson was originally selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California and made his major league debut with the South Siders on August 4, 2015. He appeared in only 44 games with the ChiSox before being traded to the Dodgers on December 16, 2015.

But as most Trayce Thompson fans know – and there are many – the 6′-3″ / 225-pound right-handed throwing and hitting outfielder has been plagued with chronic back problems throughout his seven-year minor league and two-year major league professional career. In fact, the extremely polite Dodger outfielder spent the entire second half of the 2016 season on the DL and still wasn’t cleared for baseball activities when position players reported for spring training 2017 on February 21. That being said, in the 80 games in which he did appear with the Dodger in 2016, he slugged 13 home runs and 11 doubles while driving in 32 runs and posting a .980 fielding percentage (two errors in 100 total chances). In other words, a healthy Trayce Thompson is – again – a very very good baseball player.

Trayce Thompson is healthy.

After missing the first 13 games of spring training 2017, Thompson finally returned to action on March 11 and has appeared in three games since. He is 2-for-8 (.250) with one home run and two runs batted in. And although this is an extremely small sample size, he has already made several outstanding defensive plays and has yet to make an error in four total chances in his two game in center field and one game in right field.

Thompson went 2-for-3 on Wednesday – his 26th birthday – including his first home run of the spring, a monster shot to deep left field, which helped his team to a 12-7 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Thompson absolutely crushed the first pitch he saw from Mariners right-hander Chris Heston for his first home run of the spring … on his birthday, no less. (Video Capture courtesy of MLB.TV)

“I was more relaxed today. Obviously that’s just going to happen naturally over the course of getting more at-bats and stuff,” Thompson told SportsNetLA’s Alanna Rizzo after the game. “It was just a better day. That last at-bat wasn’t ideal, runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but every day is a day to get better. I’ve been working with the hitting coaches and stuff every day to try to get me back into kind of a normal routine and stuff. Today was a good day, I just got to build on it.”

There is no denying that a healthy Trayce Thompson is a very good thing. The problem is, it is such a good thing that the Dodgers have to decide which of the 13 outfielders still in major league camp will break camp on their 25-man Opening Day roster. By every indication Yasiel Puig with be the team’s (so-called) everyday right fielder, Joc Pederson the everyday center fielder and Andre Ethier or Andrew Toles the everyday left fielder, although this could certainly change with three weeks of spring training remaining. And while it is very unlikely that any of the four non-roster invitee outfielders (O’Koyea Dickson, Tyler Holt, Henry Ramos or Alex Verdugo) will make the Dodgers Opening Day roster and the possibility that Ethier may begin the season on the DL with back / hip stiffness, this still leaves eight outfielders from which the Dodgers must choose three, plus (probably) two back-ups.

It is simply impossible to not be a fan of Trayce Thompson.
(Video Capture courtesy of SportsNetLA – Click on image to view video)

All of this said and if Trayce Thompson continues to have “better” days, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi would be hard-pressed to exclude Thompson from the final 25-man roster on April 3. There is also a pretty good chance that one day soon, people will refer to Klay Thompson as “the brother of Dodgers super star outfielder Trayce Thompson.”

Yeah, Trayce Thompson is very very good at baseball.

 

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6 Responses to “Thompson making difficult decision even more so for Dodgers”

  1. SoCalBum says:

    Perhaps back issues hindered Thompson in the minors as his stats at AA (2 seasons) and AAA were not worthy of his high prospect ranking. I watched him play in person as well as TV when he played here in Charlotte during the 2015 season; there were times when he looked terrific but more often he looked very ordinary and IMO had concentration lapses in the OF and was a pull oriented hitter. Hopefully he is able to use all of his enormous talent and become a regular LF’er for Dodgers.

  2. BDN says:

    This is an exciting group of outfielders for the Dodgers. Puig is a wild card, but he could become one of the best right fielders in the game. Joc is an above average center-fielder with a career OPS of almost .800. Toles and Thompson both flashed above average ability in the field and at the plate last year. It’s a shame Ethier and Van Slyke got were injured so much of last year. They might not have needed to add Reddick to the deal with Oakland. If healthy, both have a lot of value for platoon production…
    The battle for playing time is similar to the rotation and bullpen. The players the team has the most invested in, or who have the least amount of team control options will probably get the first crack at roster spots. This is why I imagine VanSlyke, Ethier, Hatcher, and Avilan will all be on the opening day 25 man roster. Taylor looks like he will beat out Hernandez for an infield back up role. Ryu and Kazmir probably on the DL, and Urias at AAA or extended spring training. There will probably be a lot of roster manipulation in the first month or two. It’s not the starting roster that really matters anyway. It’s the roster that hopefully plays in October that will require the really difficult decisions.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Get out of my head, BDN – hahaha!

      You nailed it (or at least nailed my thoughts) exactly.

      I totally get that the Dodgers – or any team, for that matter – absolutely must attempt to get as much of a return on their (lofty) investments as they possibly can, hence your comments Re: Ethier, Van Slyke, Hatcher and Avilan – all of whom I agree with you will be on the OD roster. I also agree with your assessments of Puig and Taylor [article pending].

      With no disrespect intended, Chris Taylor flat out blows the doors off of Kiké Hernandez – not just in his play on both sides of the ball, but the fact that he is more focused on the game than he is on bananas (if you get my drift). I have no problem with guys having fun out there (it is a game, after all), but if you are going to be the team clown, at least perform well (and consistently) when called upon. Yes, Kiké has his moments, but I believe that in the long run, Taylor will be far more consistent, not to mention more professional.

      Thanks again for the well thought-out reply.

  3. Bluenose Dodger says:

    It would appear that Kike will be an odd man out as will Gutierrez and Elbner.

    The other six outfielders make an interesting combination with three left-hand bats and three right-hand bats. Ethier, and especially SV, can play first base also. As mentioned, Andre’s contract pretty much guarantees him a spot.

    Hoping Yasiel and Joc make a deadly one-two punch this year. Time for Yasiel to cut loose. He is a free agent following the 2018 season. Should be prime time and that doesn’t last long in this game.

    • SoCalBum says:

      Puig will be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, his contract through 2018 but not enough ML service to qualify for FA. Kike with remaining minor league option appears to be headed to OKC to start season.

  4. Ron Cervenka says:

     photo Puig BR.jpg

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