While there’s been quite a few discussions lately surrounding the prospective big league outfield picture of the Dodgers, there hasn’t been much chatter about Trayce Thompson. As a matter of fact, if veteran Matt Kemp somehow squeezes his way onto the Opening Day 25-man roster, it will likely create a logjam for a handful of other players, resulting in Thompson’s chances of making the big league squad extremely slim.
Currently, Thompson falls into the same boat as 27-year-old pitcher Wilmer Font. Both players are on the club’s 40-man roster, but both players are out of options. This means that if neither make the Opening Day big league roster, which is likely, neither will be able to simply be optioned to the minors. Instead, they’ll probably be outrighted, which would entail both players having to pass through waivers before they accept a minor league assignment in the Dodgers’ system. It’s tough to say if either would draw any interest from rival clubs, though, as both have struggled in their time during their most recent big league promotions.
In the case of Thompson, things haven’t been the same since his back injury in the summer of 2016. During April and May of that campaign, Thompson hit an admirable .280/.341/.576 with an impressive nine home runs over that short span. However, at the moment his injury struck late in the summer, his overall average sat at .225/.302/.436, although he still was able to post 13 home runs, 32 RBI and 32 runs scored before being placed on the disabled list. Scouts were beginning to think that opposing pitchers were figuring him out, however, it was agreed by most that his back injury was indeed hampering his rise to stardom.
When a plague of injuries struck the big league outfield early last season, Thompson was among those who was given a shot. Over 55 plate appearances in 27 games during late spring and after rosters expanded in the fall, he hit a mere .122/.218/.255, suggesting that he still wasn’t fully recovered from the back injury which occurred well over a year prior. During his time at Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, he slashed only .212/.269/.363 with nine long balls and 33 RBI over 369 PAs in 95 games.
In terms of his general skill set, when he’s 100% healthy, Thompson always had the potential to be among the best in the organization. His range and glove work are both outstanding, and while he’s not typically recognized for his arm strength, he’s certainly more than capable. And that’s not even taking into account his speed on the basepaths, an aspect of the game that the Dodgers may lack a bit heading into the beginning of the regular season. But perhaps most importantly, Thompson can effectively man all three outfield spots, definitely a plus in the eyes of the management crew and coaching staff.
There hasn’t been much talk about his health over the winter, but if he the same type of inability to produce at the plate during Cactus League play, 2018 may ultimately prove to be the 26-year-old’s demise, at least with the Dodgers. Still, even if he shows signs of promise, it will be an uphill battle to regain his spot on the organizational depth chart, as he’ll be competing with a whole slew of players, including Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Enrique Hernandez, Rob Segedin, Alex Verdugo, and maybe even Kemp.
In the meantime, if Thompson somehow slips through the waiver cracks and finds his way back to OKC in 2018, the prospective outfield crew shaping up in Triple-A could quite easily be the best that the Pacific Coast League has seen in a long time.