Trayce Thompson heard about Jeff Samardzija’s passionate endorsement. For a rookie, from a veteran, it was the latest shot in the arm for the young outfielder who continues to look like a prospect who will make the White Sox better.
“It means a lot and I still have a lot to prove each and every day,” Thompson said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months now so I have a lot to prove.”
It’s early, and the sample size of Thompson’s body of work is less than two months, but Thompson’s diving catch to rob Ben Zobrist of extra bases and prevent the tying run from scoring in the Sox’ 4-2 win over the Royals Tuesday was the latest head-turner from “Klay Thompson’s brother,” as he is known around the Sox clubhouse.
It wasn’t the first diving grab for Thompson, who was in the cleanup spot with a .295 average, five homers and 15 RBI when the Sox hosted the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night.
“I’ve seen some good catches before, been a part of a couple here and there, and that was one of the coolest ones I’ve seen,” Samardzija said. “He closed a big gap on the ball and sold out for it. That guy needs to be in the lineup. I think he’s proven here in the last few weeks that he’s going to be there and be there for awhile.”
Thompson, who was in left field Tuesday, played right field Wednesday. He might be the Sox best center fielder, raising the possibility that Adam Eaton — one of the Sox top two hitters along with Jose Abreu — moves to left field for some or most games next season, depending on what the Sox decided to do defensively with Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia and the designated hitter spot. Rotations and platoons are possible, although it’s too early to map things out in September.
“There’s not a spot he can’t play and he’s proved it with his play,” manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday.
“Center field is probably his most natural position. He just has a lot of range. When you see him run, it’s impressive, the jumps and the strides he has going after a ball.”
A second round draft pick out of high school in 2009, Thompson, 24, was a .241 career hitter in the minors, so his bat needs to prove itself. So far, so good.
“He’s already made some adjustments,” Ventura said. “I think people have enough video on him that you can tell that they’ve been trying to do some different things to him.”
Thompson homered at Yankee Stadium last week but a bases loaded walk against All-Star reliever Dellin Betances really caught Ventura’s eye.
“That at-bat he had bases loaded with Betances really sticks out as a kid that can make some adjustments,” Ventura said. “It was one of the more impressive at-bats from a young kid that you can see, to have the patience to not swing at balls out of the zone. Again, people are going to adjust to him. He’s already shown he can make adjustments.”
Through it all, Thompson has composed himself like he belongs without being brash. He already is talking up the offseason with a look ahead to 2016.
“This is is a big offseason for me,” he said. “I thought last offseason was probably the biggest offseason of my career as far as time to put up or shut up, but these past two months have validated to me that I can play up here. And this offseason I’m going to get after it like I’ve never worked.
“I’ve prided myself on my work in the offseason but being up here these last two months has been very motivating to me. I’m going to definitely take it to the offseason and bust my tail and get after it and really come back to spring training and try to make an impression.”
He’s already made one. The Sox would be well-served to see some more.