Not every at-bat Trayce Thompson has had since rejoining the White Sox has ended in a walk-off homer.
Even after the celebration-triggering blast that sent everyone home on Thursday night, Thompson is batting just .139 in his second stint on the South Side. But the most recent roundtripper was his third this season — which is half the home-run total of the White Sox outfield — showing he at least has the ability to turn this opportunity into a shot at a place in this team’s bright future.
In a rebuilding season that is currently on pace for 100 losses, the White Sox figured why not give a chance to a guy who impressed the organization once upon a time. They traded for him after the Oakland Athletics designated him for assignment, and because offensive production hasn’t exactly been abundant from the Opening Day outfield trio of Avisail Garcia, Nicky Delmonico and Adam Engel — plus Garcia’s current stay on the disabled list — Thompson has been getting plenty of playing time.
But as he’ll readily admit, Thompson hasn’t been doing much producing either. His third homer in a White Sox uniform this season was just his fifth hit.
“I feel like I haven’t been taking advantage of it, honestly,” Thompson said, not exactly in the way you’d expect a player to after hitting a walk-off homer. “I feel like the quality of my at-bats isn’t there right now. Obviously that last at-bat was good, but I’ve had too many inconsistent days and I’ve got to be better.
“I witnessed that with the (Los Angeles Dodgers) last year, being with a National League champion team, witnessing the quality of at-bat each day and what it takes to be a Division-I player. At one point in my career, I feel like I did that, and I know I can get back to that. I have to take it one at-bat at a time and try not to do too much.”
One of the silver linings of the White Sox being in rebuilding mode is the opportunity to give players a chance at the major league level and to see what they have in certain guys. It’s what has players like Delmonico, Garcia, Matt Davidson and Yolmer Sanchez — who stole Thompson’s thunder with his post-homer celebration — in prove-it seasons, to show whether they are a part of this rebuild’s ultimate goal while the wealth of highly touted talent continues to develop in the minor leagues.
Thompson can certainly fall into that category. He impressed the last time he played for this team, slashing .295/.363/.533 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 44 games at the end of the 2015 season. That performance allowed the White Sox to turn him into Todd Frazier in a three-team trade, back when they were in win-now mode. But in the meantime, he batted just .207 in more than 100 big league games in 2016 and 2017 and Rick Hahn’s front office stocked the farm system with a fleet of big-time prospects. So now Thompson has to capitalize of this unique opportunity if he’s going to work his way into the long-term future of this club.
For what it’s worth, even with the slow start at the plate, he’s made an impression on his manager.
“It’s very tough for an athletic guy not to impress anybody in the game of baseball,” Rick Renteria said after Thursday’s game. “He moves around very well. You see the power that he has. He’s very graceful in the outfield, has a decent arm, runs well. All those factors play into the opportunity for him to hopefully to continue to develop at the major league level.
“Even though he’s been in the big leagues he’s still chipping away at who he is, he’s still trying to find out who he is and I think he’s got enough confidence to know that he’s got to work through some things and continue to maintain a little bit more consistent approach at the plate and try to get the results that he needs in order to solidify who he is as a Major League Baseball player.”
Will this be the at-bat that turns things around for Thompson? Will he be able to take advantage of this opportunity and become a part of the White Sox plans down the line? That all remains to be seen. But the point is that it will be seen and be seen at the major league level. That’s a big deal for a guy who was DFA’d just a few games into the season.
Thompson obviously wants to be a part of this team, of this organization. He’s got a chance that could play out over the remainder of the season. Thursday was a great highlight, but he’s still got a way to go.
“I know his work ethic and the routines that he’s structured are very very good. He gets playing time. I know we mix him in with a lot of the other guys, but we’ll see if it just continues to come together for him.
“I know he was always well liked within the organization prior to getting moved, and hopefully just getting a little bit more playing time will get him settled in and a little more confident and comfortable. … It’s a confidence builder and it was a very good at-bat.”