White Sox outfielder Trayce Thompson wasn’t in Thursday’s matinee lineup against the Oakland Athletics due to an elbow injury, but his six-week audition nonetheless has vaulted him into being discussed as part of the organization's future.
The 24-year-old Thompson has been a rare bright spot for the lagging White Sox over the last month and a half, hitting .377 with a 1.113 OPS and four home runs in 26 games. That level of production isn’t sustainable for anyone not named Bryce Harper (Thompson has a .423 batting average on balls in play), but he has shown he can compete at the major league level after not necessarily impressing manager Robin Ventura during previous viewings.
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“This is a different player than we saw in spring training, a different player than we saw the last couple of years,” Ventura said. “He’s physically filled out more, he’s stronger. He has a better idea of what he’s doing, and his confidence level is up there too. He realizes, playing here — you don’t really know until you’re up here and you’re playing. Now being up here, it’s a different player than we’ve seen in the past."
There isn’t a clear opening for Thompson in the White Sox 2016 outfield with Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton under contract and Avisail Garcia, while struggling with an -0.7 WAR entering Thursday, remaining inexpensive in his first year of arbitration.
But Thompson’s flash of potential since being promoted from Triple-A Charlotte Aug. 3 could lead the White Sox to changing their plans. He’s not expected to be out for much longer, after which he’ll resume his efforts to carve out a spot on the 2016 White Sox.
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“Every time he starts doing something (with his elbow), he’ll feel a little something in there,” Ventura said. “I don’t really want him in there if it’s going to change anything about his swing and how he plays. Hopefully (he’ll return) on the road.
“It’s getting better, but we just don’t feel comfortable. He’s willing to go out there and play, but I want him to be 100 percent and get out there and not change anything he’s got going on right now, because he’s been playing great.”