In this week’s Waiver Wire, SI.com’s Michael Beller looks at why you should pick up Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson.
Beginning on May 9 and ending on May 16, Klay Thompson scored 81 points and made more than half his three-pointers across a three-game span in the playoffs. That’s an admirable performance, to be sure, but it wasn’t even the best among professional athletes in the Thompson family that week.
While Klay Thompson was helping the Warriors dispatch of the Blazers and move on to the Western Conference Finals, Trayce Thompson was busy turning himself into an everyday player for the Dodgers. On May 9, Thompson went 1 for 4 with a two-run homer, accounting for all the runs in a 4–2 loss to the Mets. He didn’t start the next day but entered the game as a pinch-hitter, delivering a walk-off homer against Hansel Robles. Thompson got back in the starting lineup on May 13, going 1 for 3 with a walk and two RBI. After two more days off, he notched the first multi-homer game of his career, going 2 for 3 with a pair of homers, three RBI and a walk in a loss to the Angels. Since that week in which he left the yard four times in 14 plate appearances, the younger Thompson hasn’t looked back.
Thompson has started 21 of the Dodgers 24 games since then, and two of the three he didn’t start because of a minor back injury. In that time, he’s hitting .261/.378/.478 with four homers, three doubles, six RBI and 13 walks against 15 strikeouts. Thompson is now slashing .277/.358/.546 with 10 homers, eight doubles and 23 RBI in his age-25 season, which also happens to be his first full year in the majors. His .385 wOBA would have him tied for 22nd if he had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, which he will soon.
Thompson was a second-round pick by the White Sox coming out of high school in 2009, but he never had an elite prospect profile. He appeared on zero top-100 prospect lists while he was in the minors, and was never exceptionally young for his level. Still, he progressed steadily through the White Sox system, and hit .260/.304/.441 with 13 homers in 417 plate appearances with their Triple A affiliate in Charlotte in 2015, earning himself a promotion in August.
Everything appeared to click for Thompson once he arrived in Chicago. He hit .295/.363/.533 with five homers in 135 plate appearances for the White Sox, seemingly setting himself up to be a big part of the team’s future. Instead, they shipped him to Los Angeles this winter in a three-team deal that landed them Todd Frazier. The verdict for the Reds will be out for some time, but it’s safe to say neither the White Sox nor Dodgers regret making the deal.
There’s plenty of evidence that Thompson is earning his success this season. He has a .302 BABIP, a league-average rate that suggests he isn’t getting lucky. He has a 22% strikeout rate that is a bit higher than league average, but also an impressive 11.3% walk rate. So long as he keeps working strong at-bats, he’ll force pitchers into the strike zone. His ridiculous 30.3% HR/FB ratio can only go down, but his average fly ball distance is 304.26 feet, good for 27th in the league, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.
A hot 44-game stretch like Thompson had with the White Sox in 2015 doesn’t guarantee a thing. Thompson wasn’t even on the fantasy radar heading into the season, thanks in part to an outfield logjam in Los Angeles, but more because he didn’t warrant attention at the deepest position in the fantasy game. Thompson bullied his way into the regular starting lineup during that week in May, and the front office guaranteed he’d stay there by designating Carl Crawford for assignment last week. Now that he has the full attention of the Dodgers, he should have that of the fantasy community’s, as well. Make Thompson a priority add.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cardinals
Peralta returned from a thumb injury suffered during spring training and immediately started hitting, going 7 for 19 with a homer, two doubles and three walks in his first five games (four starts). He has been playing third base with Aledmys Diaz at short and Matt Carpenter at second, but we could see him slide over to short before long, depending on Diaz’s bat. Peralta’s spot in the lineup is rock solid, and he has been a top-10 fantasy shortstop in both of the last two seasons. His ownership rate should eventually be as close to 100% as is statistically possible.
Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Cubs
Jorge Soler’s trip to the DL has opened up the opportunity for Baez to start mostly every day. That, combined with his positional versatility, makes him an intriguing guy in all fantasy formats. Baez is hitting .267/.302/.417 with four homers, six doubles, 14 RBI and three steals in 126 plate appearances this season, a stat line that doesn’t exactly jump off the page but would still play in deeper leagues. We all know about Baez’s immense potential. Now that he’s getting a chance to play every day, it will be worth it for a lot of owners to give him a chance over the next few weeks.
Leonys Martin, OF, Mariners
Martin returned from a hamstring injury over the weekend, restarting what has been a breakout season for the 28-year-old. We profiled Martin before he went on the DL, noting the changes in his swing and approach that unlocked the power in his bat. Through 175 plate appearances, Martin is hitting .248/.324/.458 with nine homers, eight steals and 20 RBI. He has a real chance at a 20/20 season, and regardless of rates, that makes him an outfielder worth owning in all formats.
Ketel Marte, SS, Mariners
Marte also spent two weeks on the DL recently, coming back a few days before Martin. He had one steal in his first game back, then swiped two more bags the next day. Marte now has eight steals in 185 plate appearances this season. Shortstop is deeper than it has been in a long time, but it can still be a tricky position. Marte brings 20-steal speed to the table that makes him a worthwhile add in most leagues.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals
Adams 10-game hitting streak may have been snapped on Saturday, but the first baseman continues to hit for the Cardinals. He went 13 for 36 with two homers, three doubles, two walks and eight RBI during his streak, and is now slashing .322/.372/.559 with eight homers and 10 doubles on the season. We’ve seen production like this from Adams in 2013 and 2014 before he fell off a cliff last season. That track record gives us more reason to believe Adams’s resurgence is for real.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
The White Sox turned at least one page to the future last week, getting rid of Jimmy Rollins and promoting the 22-year-old Anderson from Triple A Charlotte. Anderson hit .304/.325/.409 with four homers, 10 doubles, two triples and 11 steals in 256 plate appearances with Charlotte, and is expected to start every day for the White Sox. He was a unanimous top-50 prospect heading into this season according to the major prospect-rankings services, topping out at No. 19 in Baseball Prospectus. He has elite speed that makes him immediately relevant in all fantasy leagues, and there’s plenty of reason to believe his bat will play enough, especially as a fantasy shortstop.
Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
Contreras’s eventual promotion to the Cubs this season is not a question of if, but when. The 24-year-old catcher is hitting .353/.443/.594 with nine homers, 14 doubles and 40 RBI in 221 plate appearances, and is considered the best offensive catcher prospect in baseball. The Cubs aren’t going to call him up just to have him sit on the bench, so when he does get the call you can bet on him playing a few times per week.
Matt Shoemaker, SP, Angels
This is what fantasy owners were expecting last season when Shoemaker was a chic sleeper pick. He has been, without hyperbole, one of the best pitchers in the majors over the last month. In his last five starts, Shoemaker has a 1.88 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 48 strikeouts against one walk in 38 1/3 innings. Shoemaker racked up 49 strikeouts between walks, and has at least 11 whiffs in three of those five starts. In more savy leagues you’ve likely already missed your chance to get Shoemaker, but if he’s still available in your league go get him now.
Danny Duffy, SP/RP, Royals
We’ve been telling you to grab Duffy for weeks. We first discussed him in a Pitching Report where we highlighted the changes he made that suggested he could find a new level of success as a starter this season. That success has continued unabated over the last few weeks. Duffy fanned 10 batters in six innings in a win over the White Sox on Saturday, and now has a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 38 strikeouts against five walks in 31 innings as a starter. Like Shoemaker, he’s someone who needs to be owned now in all fantasy formats.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates
Don’t worry about the Pirates sending Taillon back to the minors after his debut last week. That was simply a numbers game, with the Pirates taking advantage of some off days in their schedule to get an extra arm in the bullpen. Taillon will be back in the rotation sooner rather than later, and that makes him someone worth owning in all fantasy formats. If his owner cut him after he was sent back to Triple A Indianapolis, take advantage of that mistake.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians
Bauer has made three straight impressive starts, allowing a total of six runs on 18 hits with 19 strikeouts over that span, a stretch covering 22 2/3 innings. The best news is that he has been able to stick in the rotation since Carlos Carrasco’s return from a hamstring injury, so it’s a safe bet that he will be one of Cleveland’s starters for the rest of the season. He has a 3.69 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings on the year.
Brandon Kintzler, RP, Twins
Fernando Abad, RP, Twins
With the Kevin Jepsen closer experiment officially deemed a failure, Kintzler and Abad will split the team’s ninth-inning duties for the time being. It seems Kintzler is slightly ahead in the pecking order, thanks largely to the fact that he’s a righty and Abad is a lefty, but both are worth grabbing in all fantasy formats. Kintzler has a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 11 strikeouts in 16 innings, while Abad has a 0.87 EREA, 1.02 WHIP and 21 whiffs in 20 2/3 frames.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
Glasnow showed some of his best, and some of his worst, in his last start. He had nine strikeouts but needed 95 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings. He walked five batters and threw just 51 strikes, costing himself a chance at a win. There’s no question that Glasnow is one of the five most talented starting pitchers in the Pittsburgh organization, but the team likely won’t promote him until they see more consistency with his control. Still, he’s worth stashing in all fantasy formats.