Projecting prospects into certain positions is far from an exact science, but certain patterns do emerge.
Taller players often get shuffled away from shortstop and centerfield for one reason or another. Trayce Thompson felt like he was put into the category and didn’t like it one bit.
Speaking to reporters and bloggers at a White Sox organized conference call on Thursday, Thompson said he prioritizes his defense and wants to stick in center.
“I feel like everyone talked about because I was a taller guy that everyone put right field on me and I’ve always taken that personally,” Thompson said. “I’ve tried to take everything I can to stick in centerfield. I feel like the past few years I’ve changed lot of peoples’ opinions.”
Thompson has impressed with his defense and remaining in centerfield seems more likely than it did two years ago. His value is much higher in a premium position like center so that’s why his ranking has remained so high in our prospect rankings.
Growing up in the northwest Thompson idolized Ken Griffey Jr. Looking up to one of the best centerfielders of all time taught him the importance of defense.
“He always preached defense,” Thompson said. “Me personally I think errors are unacceptable. Centerfield is my strongest position and I think the White Sox have been happy with me there.”
Thompson does have seven errors this season while shifting between center and right while players like Keenyn Walker and Jared Mitchell also got a chance to play in center for Birmingham.
“You want to have your pitcher’s back and have your pitchers and defense trust you,” Thompson said. “Defense is always my No. 1 on my priority list.”
The current No. 1 priority for Thompson and the Barons is winning the Southern League. The Barons are currently in the middle of the championship series against Mobile. Birmingham won Game 1 8-3.
Thompson was 0-for-5 in the opener, but had started to show some signs of life in a 3-for-4 game that included a double and two homers on Sept. 1. He has been known for streaky play in the minors and this season was no different. After a slow start to the season (.187/.302/.363 in April), Thompson heated up in May (.292/.423/.417) and June (.314/.365/.520) before a nose dive in the second half (.196/.270/.343).
He tries not to pay attention to the numbers because when he has, his focus has shifted away from where it needs to be.
“It’s harder in some places when there’s a big Jumbotron and you can’t avoid it,” Thompson said. “I just don’t pay a whole lot of attention to numbers. You can do everything right and hit three lines drives and still go 0-for-3.
“I had a lot of those days, especially in April. I didn’t have a very good April, but it was probably my best April in probably the past three of four years I’ve had. Sometime in July I got a little caught up in it because I had a good June. In June I had a good approach and in July I was looking at my average and I was trying to get hits. That kind of got me in a real rut. I’ve come out of it and we’ve been doing well lately.”
While paying attention to stats may have distracted him at points this season, Thompson has developed a reputation as a hard-worker. As a raw high school draft pick in 2009, Thompson has come a long way since then, developing his tools into actual production at a high level in the minors.
He knows he still needs to cut down on his strikeouts (139 K in 590 PA this season).
“I’m a guy with long arms and long legs so I’m always trying to shorten my swing,” Thompson said. “I want to cut down on my strikeouts, take more walks, be a more situational hitter. That’s kind of the model of the sport though. It’s your time to work on stuff. If you want to change something in your swing this is your time to do that.”