Trayce of Hope?
Saying Trayce Thompson has been a journeyman in Major League Baseball may be putting it lightly. Since debuting in 2015, Thompson has played for five MLB teams: the White Sox, the Athletics, the Dodgers, the Cubs, and the Padres.
The only organization where he has ever had any kind of glimmer of success has been in Los Angeles, in the cozy confines of Dodgers Stadium.
Over his career, Thompson has played in 181 games and accumulated 556 plate appearances with the Dodgers, and he has hit 27 home runs and posted a .781 OPS over that sample as well.
With the other four clubs? Thompson has only hit 12 home runs and averaged a .574 OPS in 116 games.
Thompson’s two best seasons in Los Angeles came in 2015 and 2022 when he hit 13 home runs in each of those individual campaigns. In addition to that impressive home run number in only 74 games and 239 plate appearances, he also hit .268 and accumulated 39 RBI.
Thus, it’s not a surprise that the Dodgers kept him on a $1.145 million deal for the upcoming 2023 season (and he does have two seasons left of team control).
The 32-year-old brother of NBA superstar Klay Thompson is projected to be a right-handed platoon bat who can slot in the outfield or designated hitter position, according to Roster Resource. Conversely, in 2022, Thompson was better against right-handed pitchers (182 wRC+; 32.7 percent K rate; .308 average) than left-handed ones (74 wRC+; 42.7 percent K rate; .174 average), according to Fangraphs splits.
Therefore, such a platoon role may not be guaranteed for Thompson in 2023, even though he did get the start on Saturday against Arizona Diamondbacks‘ left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner.
If tonight is any indicator, however, his platoon splits may look a lot differently in 2023.
In the Dodgers’ 10-1 win over the Diamondbacks, Thompson not only collected three hits but three home runs to boot.
One of the home runs happened to be a grand slam in the bottom of the first off of Bumgarner, which pretty much gave the Dodgers a comfortable four-run lead that only grew bigger throughout the game. Thompson also hit homers off of Arizona relievers Kevin Ginkel and Carlos Vargas and accumulated eight total RBI for the game.
There’s no question that Thompson should get opportunities in the outfield this season, especially with other options such as David Peralta and James Outman being left-handed hitters. Thompson has been a legitimate power threat at times in his career (.252 ISO last year; .212 career ISO). Unfortunately, his strikeout issues (36.5 percent K rate in 2022; 30.2 percent career K rate) have held him back from being anything more than just an occasional bench option thus far.
It’s unlikely that Thompson will put together another three-home-run game like today’s contest against the Diamondbacks. And while he did hit .256 last year, his .374 BABIP a season ago suggests that his average is bound to regress in 2023. That makes him a difficult hold in leagues where batting average is a scoring category.
Nonetheless, a 20+ HR threat who could play 100-115 games off the bench wouldn’t be a bad weapon for the Dodgers (or fantasy managers in deep or NL-only leagues) to have, especially with an outfield that may be a rotating door in 2023 anyways.
Dodgers fans and fantasy baseball managers who roster Thompson though just have to understand that those homers will be bundled in with a lot of strikeouts and a depressing batting average as well.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Adam Duvall (BOS): 4-5, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
Baseball fans are going to remember Ryan McKenna’s fielding error in the bottom of the ninth which set up Duvall’s walk-off home run. However, that shouldn’t take away from Duvall’s clutch hit, or his two-homer, four-hit, and five-RBI performance on Saturday in the Red Sox’s 9-8 comeback win. Duvall is looking to rebound in Boston after hitting .213 with a .677 OPS in 86 games with Atlanta last year. Through two games, he’s off to a good start.
Mitch Garver (TEX): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, BB.
The Rangers pulverized the defending National League champs 16-3 on Saturday night and improved their record to 2-0 under new manager Bruce Bochy. Garver was the main catalyst for the Rangers. He collected six RBI and two home runs, including a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh which contributed to a six-run inning in the bottom of the seventh off of Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez. In one game, the Rangers catcher has already matched 20 percent of his home run total from 2022.
Matt Olson (ATL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
A 34-home run and 103-RBI season would be an excellent season for most first basemen. Then again, most first basemen aren’t replacing franchise legend Freddie Freeman, which was the situation Olson walked into last year after spending all of his career in Oakland prior. Despite the high home-run and RBI totals, Olson hit only .240 and posted an OPS of .802, both considerable drop-offs from his marks in 2021 with the A’s (.271 and .911, respectively). Through two games, Olson is hitting .500 with a 1.931 OPS, and he is still launching balls, as evidenced by his two-home run performance on Saturday. Let’s see if this is a progression toward a higher batting average for Olson in his second season in Atlanta.
Austin Hays (BAL): 5-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
The Orioles blew it against the Red Sox on Saturday, but don’t blame Hays, who put on a sterling overall offensive performance. He collected five hits, including two doubles and a home run, and also swiped a bag for good measure. After a 22-home run campaign in 2021, Hays saw his total dip to 16 in 2022, despite playing 14 more games and having 53 more plate appearances. The new park dimensions of Camden Yards certainly didn’t help Hays (nor teammate Ryan Mountcastle) last year. Can he adjust in 2023? Or will he simply be a road warrior for fantasy baseball managers who roster him?
Yandy Díaz (TB): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Díaz is a complicated player for fantasy baseball managers. He doesn’t hit home runs, as he hit only nine last year. And he doesn’t steal bases either (only eight in his career). Those are big reasons why his consensus overall ADP is 228, and he is still available in nearly 64 percent of Yahoo leagues, according to Fantasy Pros. And yet, he hit .296 last year, is off to a scorching start this year, and bats in the leadoff spot for the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe he won’t hit 15-20 home runs or steal more than a few bags in a season. However, there’s something to say about a guy who can hit for a high average, post decent OPS numbers (.824 last year), and get a lot of plate appearances to boot. He should be an early waiver/FAAB pickup if available.
Brandon Crawford (SF): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.
Crawford is 36 years old and he looked his age in 2022 by hitting .231 with nine home runs in 118 games, a big disappointment after a 2021 campaign that saw him hit .298 with 24 home runs in 138 games. The Giants seemed intent on moving on from Crawford at shortstop this offseason with their pursuit of Carlos Correa, but a questionable physical got in the way. Crawford through two games though has helped soften the disappointment for Giants fans, as he is not only hitting .375, but coming off a game where he collected a home run, three RBI, and a stolen base. The Giants are shaky in a lot of areas on a hitting end in 2023. A bounce-back season for Crawford would be a huge help for them if they want to turn things around in the win column.
Taylor Ward (LAA): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
After a surprising Opening Day loss to the Athletics which ended with Anthony Rendon getting into a filmed confrontation with a fan, the Angels righted things with a 13-1 blowout win in Oakland on Saturday night. Ward had a huge night, as he not only had three hits, but a home run and four RBI as well. If the Angels want to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2014, they will need someone to contribute in a major way on a hitting end other than Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Ward, the Angels’ leadoff hitter, could be that person, especially with him hitting .444 to begin the year.
C.J. Cron (COL): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
After winning the first two games of the series on the road against the heavily-favored Padres, the Rockies fell back to earth in an 8-4 loss on Saturday. However, one Rockies player who has continued his hot start at the plate is Cron, who hit his third home run of the season in the Rockies’ first loss of the year and is posting a ridiculous .636 average in 13 plate appearances. The 33-year-old Cron has been a polarizing player in fantasy baseball circles. Is he a legitimate first-base option, or simply benefitting from those infamous Coors Field park factors? Through three games, Cron is proving it may be the former, especially since Petco Park last season was rated as the second-hardest park to hit at, according to Baseball Savant’s three-year park factors.
Seby Zavala (CWS): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.
The White Sox couldn’t hold on against the Astros on Saturday (the pitching may be a concern beyond Dylan Cease), but Zavala did all he could to keep the South Siders in the game. Zavala hit his first home run of the year off of Houston’s José Urquidy to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth (Chicago lost 6-4). Saturday was Zavala’s first start of the year, and it’s expected that he will be a primary backup to Yasmani Grandal again in 2023. That being said, Zavala was a better batting average (.270) and OPS (.729) option than Grandal (.202 and .570, respectively) last season. Grandal is off to a good start now (.958 OPS), but if Grandal slides again to those 2022 numbers, one has to wonder whether new manager Pedro Grifol will give Zavala more opportunities in the lineup in 2023.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswirev | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)