Where Will Trayce Thompson Fit in Next Year?

in action against the at Yankee Stadium on September 25, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The White Sox defeated the Yankees 5-2.

On July 30th, the Chicago White Sox were 49-50 and winners of seven straight. They were just 2.5 games out of the American League’s final Wild Card playoff spot. The Sox were in Boston that night with Chris Sale slated to start against the Red Sox. Well, Sale got rocked, the seven-game winning streak was over, and things have been ugly ever since. That loss was the first loss of a dreadful stretch that featured 13 losses in 18 games and spoiled any chances of a September playoff push.

But in case anyone has decided to watch the Sox play out the meaningless last month and a half of their season, there have been a few reasons to begin looking forward to 2016. One of those reasons is Carlos Rodon, who’s emergence I wrote about a couple weeks ago. On the offensive side of the ball, it looks like the Sox may have another rookie who has a future that could be just as promising.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Trayce Thompson. Get used to hearing his name, because you should be hearing a lot of it in the near future and hopefully for years to come. Thompson, a super-athletic outfielder who the Sox drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, has done nothing but impress since he made his Major League debut with the Sox on August 4th. In 39 games, he is hitting .295 with 5 HR and 15 RBI. If those numbers aren’t already impressive enough, I will add that he also has 8 doubles and 2 triples which give him a slugging percentage of .552 and an OPS of .909.

Regardless of the fact that the Sox have been playing meaningless late-season games throughout Thompson’s call-up, you can’t simply look past his eye-opening rookie campaign.

Sure, there has been some skepticism with Thompson’s success. Some critics are wondering why he never hit higher than .260 in the minor leagues. But even though Thompson’s batting average in the minors isn’t appealing, some of his other numbers can help you believe that these past two months are a lot more than just a flash in the pan.

In 2011, Thompson’s first full year as a starter in professional baseball, he notched 36 doubles while cranking out 24 HR and 87 RBI. Those numbers were recorded at the A level. Granted, A ball is far from the best level of minor league competition, but the bottom line is that Thompson showed an immediate ability to hit for extra bases. He followed up that season with 31 doubles, 25 HR, and 96 RBI in 2012, a campaign that was split between all three different levels of the Sox farm system. Thompson spent his next two seasons, 2013 and 2014, almost exclusively in AA. His numbers decreased across the board in those two seasons, but he responded with a very impressive Spring Training in 2015 and followed it up with a bounce-back year in AAA, criteria that was good enough for him to earn a promotion to the big league club this past August.

So what, exactly, is Thompson’s place on the Sox going forward?

Well, looking ahead to 2016, the Sox will have all three of their starting outfielders from 2015 under contract again next year – Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, and Avisail Garcia. Cabrera and Eaton aren’t going anywhere, but Garcia’s place in right field might not be as concrete as it once was. The 24-year-old Garcia has failed to show any signs of development in his first four seasons in the Major Leagues. Granted, this season has been his first full year as an everyday starter, but his underwhelming power numbers and his lack of plate discipline throughout the season have some people wondering if he will ever develop into the hitter that the Detroit Tigers once labeled “Minny Miggy”.

Unless the Sox overhaul their outfield this winter, or something unexpected happens in Spring Training next year, Trayce Thompson deserves a chance to be the team’s starting right fielder to begin the season. You could even argue that Thompson has shown us more flashes of greatness in 39 games than Garcia has in parts of three seasons on the South Side. 39 games is a small sample size indeed, but there is something about Thompson’s style of play that brings an extra level of energy to the team when he is in the lineup.

Avisail Garcia was basically handed a starting job in right field in 2013 due to the team’s decision to engage in rebuilding mode. But in 2016, all indications are that the Sox will not be in rebuilding mode. The team has two superstars in Chris Sale and Jose Abreu who are in the primes of their careers. Time is of the essence, and Trayce Thompson looks like he is ready to help this team win. He deserves a chance in right field next year.