The Chicago White Sox selected Trayce Thompson in the second round of the 2009 draft and signed him to an above-slot deal of $625,000. Thompson plays excellent center field defense and features both power and speed on offense. At high-A in 2012, Thompson led the California league in home runs with 22 and stole 18 bases in 116 games. The issue with Thompson is that he is often fooled at the plate and will strike out too much.
Thompson spent the entire 2013 season at double-A Birmingham, where he cut his strikeouts down and increased his walks; however, his isolated power dropped by nearly 90 points as a result. While he was making more contact, it was likely weak contact as his .280 batting average on balls in play led to an overall line of .229/.321/.383 in 590 plate appearances. Despite the low batting average, Thompson did still hit 15 home runs and stole 25 bases.
Thompson is never going to hit for a high average, but with strong outfield defense, a high walk rate and a nice combination of power and speed, he has star potential and can be a valuable part of the White Sox’ future. A good comp for him is former White Sox center fielder Mike Cameron. Cameron had a career batting average of .249, but was a consistent 20/20 threat who put up double-digit walk rates and played excellent centerfield defense.
At his peak, Cameron was a 5.5 WAR player and accumulated 49.7 WAR throughout his career.
Thompson has all the tools to have a career similar to Cameron. He will likely repeat double-A to begin the 2014 season, and he will need to improve his pitch recognition and be more consistent with his swing, which tends to get long and has an uppercut. While his offensive game is still a work in progress, Thompson may be the best defensive outfielder in the White Sox system. He is only 22-years old, and the upside is there for him to be an impact player at the big league level.
The White Sox recently traded for center fielder Adam Eaton, in addition to their acquisition of right fielder Avisail Garcia in the Jake Peavy trade, and both will be part the of the team’s long-term plans. Left fielder Alejandro De Aza has a less certain future with the White Sox and should not be a roadblock to Thompson securing a future outfield spot.
Currently ahead of Thompson on the depth chart are outfielders Jordan Danks and Jared Mitchell, who will both likely start the year at triple-A. If Thompson can make the necessary adjustments and tap into his raw talent, he should have an opportunity to challenge for a starting outfield position on the White Sox in 2015.