Can a Healthy Trayce Thompson Play a Big Role for the Dodgers?

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Jul 3, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Trayce Thompson (21) is greeted by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) after a solo home run in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 3, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Trayce Thompson (21) is greeted by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) after a solo home run in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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If Trayce Thompson can stay healthy he could be a key component the Dodgers need to have some success against left-handed pitching. Let’s take a look at what Thompson can do for the Dodgers if he’s able to play a full season.

Last season, Thompson’s time in the big leagues ended fairly soon, with two stress fractures in his back. He started the season off with the Dodgers hitting 11 home runs in two months but Thompson’s back injury halted his hot start to the season in June, and he never saw another at-bat for the rest of the season. Dodger fans were finally getting a chance to see who could be the new left fielder, only to have it ripped away so quickly.

Thompson has a career .269 average against left-handed pitching. It’s not an eye-catching number, but he’s yet to have a full season in the big leagues. He was called up by the Chicago White Sox in 2015 but for only 44 games. Thompson isn’t a big power hitter, but with consistent playing time he’s capable of putting up 20+ home runs in a season.

The Dodgers have a few right-handed outfield options, but none of them, except for Yasiel Puig, are a guarantee every game. However, even Puig needs to have a consistent season and be the offensive powerhouse we’re all hoping to see, if he wants the guarantee of starting. Other options are Scott Van Slyke, Franklin Gutierrez, and Kike Hernandez, but Thompson can potentially be better than all of these options when it comes to consistency and production.

Thompson had a fairly good spring training. In his first six games he hit .333 with a home run. Although he did drop off a little bit after these few games, it was still good to see him running the bases as well as hitting the ball hard.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Jun 30, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Trayce Thompson (21) hits a two run home run in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Even though Thompson is healthy and ready to play again, he still didn’t make the Opening Day roster and will begin the season in Oklahoma City. If Thompson can put up good numbers in the minors, I can’t imagine it will be long before he gets the call up. The Dodgers don’t have a set left fielder, let alone an outfielder who can hit left-handed pitching consistently. Thompson could be a huge factor for the Dodgers this season if he gets enough playing time.

Dave Roberts has been happy with the progress Trayce is making and doesn’t believe he’s showing any signs of the back injury affecting his performance. Here’s a direct quote from Roberts in an article written by Andy McCullough on latimes.com

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“He’s moving really well,” Roberts said. “He’s recovering. There’s no signs of anything with the previous back [injury] …. The whole time, he’s really wanted to push the envelope. And we’ve kept him back to care from him and keep him prudent. But he’s accelerated this whole process.”

Thompson has been challenging himself this Spring Training by working on being aggressive on the first pitch of his at-bats. In Thompson’s 397 career plate appearances, he only has 17 first pitch balls put into play. Being more aggressive on the first pitch could also lessen the number of times Thompson strikes outs. The Dodgers could use him as a possible leadoff man if he can start putting the first pitch in play more. With the Dodgers not having much speed on the base paths, it could help make him a better option at leadoff.

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With the season quickly approaching, the Opening Day roster has already been set but Thompson isn’t on it. Spending some time in OKC may be for the better in order to build up his confidence again as well as getting in some more at-bats. I believe Thompson has what it takes to be an everyday player for the Dodgers, but it will take some work to get past his injury and earn his spot back on the big league team.

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