2016 Dodgers in Review: OF Trayce Thompson

MLB 262 .225 .302 .436 101 13 0.7

What happened in 2016: Acquired in 3-way trade with Reds and White Sox. Was great before breaking his back.

Trayce Thompson has always been athletic and talented, but he never put it all together in the minors consistently. A taste of the majors in 2015 offered some optimism, and the Dodgers took a chance on him in the deal. Early on, it looked like it would pay off in spades.

Thompson, despite some early defensive miscues, was a monster at the plate after Carl Crawford got hurt and Andre Ethier broke his leg in Spring Training. Through June 7, Thompson had a .271/.356/.566 triple slash with 10 home runs, a .295 ISO and a 148 wRC+. That’s elite-level production, and he was doing it against both lefties (142 wRC+) and righties (151 wRC+).

He endeared himself to Dodger fans with two walk-off home runs in the span of a month. On May 10, he walked off the Mets with this blast.

On June 7, he walked off the Rockies with this dinger.

Shades of Matt Kemp, honestly. I wrote about whether this was the real Trayce Thompson on June 7.

“Even if Thompson’s had his fair share of struggles in the outfield, everything else checks out. His triple slash this season (.270/.352/.548) is better than last season, his 145 wRC+ is nine points better than last year and would be the 24th-best in baseball (minimum 140 plate appearances), and his .278 ISO is even better in terms of MLB ranking at 11th-best. Thompson isn’t benefiting from a high BABIP (.298), he’s walking at an excellent rate (11.3 percent) and he’s keeping his strikeouts down (23.2 percent). He’s also keeping both his swinging strike rate down (7.5 percent), as well as his outside-the-zone swing rate (20.1 percent). That said, there are some points on the other side. Of course, it’s a small sample size. He has just 142 plate appearances this season after 135 in his rookie season. Also, his HR/FB% is at an unsustainable 32.1 percent, and it was half that last season. Plus, his line drive rate is also down 15 percent thanks to a massive increase in ground ball rate (from 38.5 percent in 2015 to 55.9 this season).”

Unfortunately, things derailed for Thompson after that. He fractured two vertebraes in his back that directly led to diminished production on the field. I’m not saying he would have continued his torrid pace, but he wouldn’t have fallen off a cliff, either.

From June 8 until July 10 — his last game of the season — he slashed just .173/.242/.309 with a .136 ISO and a 51 wRC+. He tried to rehab and make it back before the end of the season, but irritation in his back led to him getting an X-ray in August that revealed the fractures. It was a disappointing end to a season that had started off so promising for him. But if he’s truly 100 percent, he’s definitely one of the five best outfielders in the organization.

2017 status: Pre-arb. He says he’s 100 percent recovered, but there’s still a chance he goes to Triple-A Oklahoma City to begin the season if for no other reason than he needs full-time reps.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.