During the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers were involved in a blockbuster trade that sent all-star third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox in exchange for some minor leaguers from both the Reds and the Dodgers.
The Dodgers also earned themselves quite the haul in the deal, bringing over pitching prospect Frankie Montas and outfielder Trayce Thompson. Upon making the trip to Los Angeles, Thompson immediately became the Dodgers’ 10th best prospect.
The son of former Los Angeles Lakers center Mychal Thompson and brother of the NBA champion Klay Thompson, Trayce was called up by the White Sox late last season and played extremely well in his 44 games in the show. He immediately made an impact with the club, batting .295 in 122 ABs and crushing five homers as well. However, with the Dodger outfield already a packed house, it is difficult to see where the 25 year old prospect fits into the grand scheme exactly. There’s little doubt that Thompson has what it takes to be an outstanding player for years to come, but his acquisition begs one question- could he be the Dodgers’ alternative in center field?
New Dodger manager Dave Roberts has already gone on record, saying that Joc Pederson is the Dodgers’ centerfielder going into opening day, but last year turned out to be quite the learning experience for young Joc. After a fairly reasonable first half, Pederson’s performance took a nosedive during the second half of last season. After hitting .230 and swatting 20 homers in the first half, he batted a meager .178 in the last half and only hit six more home runs for the rest of the year. The last half of the season actually saw Pederson lose his everyday job in center to Kike Hernandez, who had a fantastic year all on his own.
While Thompson may not have the upside or potential that has made Pederson a rising star, he has already shown production that indicates he could be a more polished and complete hitter at this moment. In a great article by Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, he mentions some of the observations had by Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi while watching Pederson last season, noting his violent swing towards the ball.
“He’s the classic case of a guy where you’d say you don’t get extra points for hitting it 480 feet,” Zaidi said of Pederson, who led the majors with an average distance of 421.7 feet on his 26 home runs. “He has such natural power that if he could trade that extra 60 feet for another 15 points on his batting average he’ll be a better player, a tougher player to pitch to.”
There is no doubt that Pederson still has a lot of work to do in order to become a consistently dangerous hitter and with that in mind, could he be sharing time in centerfield with Thompson? With such a small body of work in the majors to look at, I’d like to compare both players’ minor league careers for now.
in 2014, Pederson was a terror in every ballpark his name was heard. While playing for the Albuquerque Isotopes, he batted .303 and hit 33 home runs in his 121 games. He made it a 30-30 season, also stealing and even 30 bags as well. In his five-year MiLB tenure, Pederson batted a fantastic .302 and smashed 84 homers in over 400 games.
Thompson has been well seasoned in his seven seasons as a minor leaguer. In his 734 games, he batted a significantly lesser .241 on average, but displayed the same amount of power, hitting 101 homers. His speed is also comparable to Pederson, stealing as many as 25 bases in one season.
It’s safe to say that having both Pederson and Thompson to choose from is a really nice problem to have. However, the argument can be made that if Pederson fails to measure up to expectations, Thompson could fill in quite nicely, having already established himself as a worthy hitter in the MLB.