Let’s admit that had the Thunder completed a shocking upset of the Warriors on Thursday night, not all would not have been lost for the family of Golden State All-Star Klay Thompson, who would have had ample time to watch his brother Tracye Thompson continue his rise from afterthought to one of the hottest players available in nearly 80 percent of polled mixed leagues.
Thompson — the baseball playing member of the family — has seen his ownership rise to just a tad under 20 percent as the right-handed hitter continues to provide the Dodgers with a facet much of the rest of the lineup seems to be lacking in: power. Los Angeles entered Thursday 12th in the majors in runs scored, yet the Dodgers are 20th in homers (45) and 26th in slugging percentage (.376). Those numbers would be more disturbing if not for the presence of Thompson, who has generated seven homers and a .544 slugging percentage in just 113 plate appearances.
A starter in 16 of the Dodgers’ last 19 games, Thompson has emerged as the team’s most consistent hitter, producing a .288-6-14 line with an OPS of 1.008. For the season, his .889 OPS would rank among the top 35 in the majors had he mustered enough at-bats to qualify, an issue Thompson won’t have to concern himself with for much longer, especially since he’s one of four Dodgers starters with an OPS above .686.
For a player who was a throw-in during the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the Reds from the White Sox last December, Thompson is beginning to emerge in a bigger role neither he nor the Dodgers had anticipated at the start of the season, when he viewed more as a fourth or fifth outfielder who could provide some pop off the bench.
Come to think of it, the White Sox could’ve used Thompson, for while Adam Eaton is playing like a darkhorse AL MVP candidate, moving Eaton to center and placing Thompson in right would have been a hell of a lot better than the .250/.310/.351 production they’re getting from Austin Jackson. Despite their grip on first place, the boys from the South Side of ChiTown are 20th in slugging percentage and have hit fewer homers (42) than the Dodgers.
Thompson’s potential should have been seen more closely and respected a lot better than the White Sox handled it. He had three straight seasons of least 15 homers, including a combined 18 in 2015 between Triple-A and a 44-game sampling in the bigs. To no huge shock, Thompson’s strikeout rates were high as he worked his way through the system, but he’s pared it down to a respectable 22.1 percent this season, a number made more tolerable when you consider he’s kept his walk rate between 8-10 percent.
Entering Thursday’s play, Thompson is currently projected for 23-25 homers, and I’d venture those numbers could take a climb if he remains in the lineup. Thompson is still more of a ground ball-type (52.6 percent), with his fly ball rate kicking in near 31 percent. He could make me look foolish if there’s a reduction in his grounder totals; that Thompson has just six doubles is a sign of his surprisingly weak line drive rate of 16.7 percent, a considerable dip from last season’s 29.2 percent.
Making Thompson more intriguing is that he can steal bases, as he recorded a combined 45 swipes in the minors in 2013-14 before falling to 12 last season. Thompson has just one swipe thus far, yet if the Dodgers gave him more leeway on the basepaths, I can envision him finishing the season with 6-9 steals.
As evidenced by the family tree (keep in mind that Mychal Thompson, Klay and Tracye’s dad, was the first overall pick of the 1978 NBA draft and averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over a 12-year career that included a pair of NBA titles with the Lakers), this kid can play and has an interesting upside. If you missed out on last week’s featured player, the Reds’ Adam Duvall, Thompson is offering the first of two chances (sit tight) of getting an NL West player who is coming into radar view. Enjoy this Thompson, more so since we can’t guarantee his brother will be active come the start of next month.
Plenty of interesting options this week, including one player who could be Duvall/Thompson Lite if HIS TEAM WOULD LET HIM PLAY….
*Peter O’Brien, Professional Hitter, Diamondbacks: Five players have combined to go .227/.288/.407 in left field for the D’Backs. Meanwhile, O’Brien is mauling Triple-A pitching to the tune of .306-12-32 with a .931 OPS. The team has talked about bringing him up in the near future, stating lack of position and concerns about his outfield defense (well, at least they’re getting off the “he’s a catcher” kick). Owned in less than two percent of polled mixed leagues, O’Brien is more of a clip ‘n save player at this point, but once he does come up (my hunch says by mid-June at the latest), O’Brien would be a good power compliment to Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb. Just bring him up already, D’Backs. I really don’t want to go with the #FreePeterOBrien campaign on social media. This won’t end well for either of us.
*Chris Herrmann, C, Diamondbacks: Yet again, another example of a catcher whose offense finally arrives. Not known as a power hitter, Herrmann has five homers in 78 plate appearances entering Thursday and sports a .286/.338/.600 slash line. Owned in 20 percent of polled mixed leagues, Herrmann is cutting into the time of an equally-effective Welington Castillo, which gives Arizona one of the strongest set of offensive-minded backstops in the game. Herrmann still gets at least 2-3 starts a week and would become more valuable if something happens to Castillo.
*Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals: A mild case of back stiffness earlier this week has been about the only thing slowing down what has been a solid rebound season for Adams, who missed 102 games in 2015. The big man is hitting .316-6-21 in 107 plate appearances and is ripping up righties with a 1.556 OPS over the past week. Adams’ 41.4 percent fly ball rate is just above his career 39.4 percent total, so the only thing keeping him from a major breakout is playing time. Brandon Moss has cooled off considerably, and Matt Holliday has only five games at the position, which means Adams, owned in 15 percent of polled mixed leagues, has a chance to to exceed the 20 homers he’s projected to connect on.
*Michael Fulmer, P, Tigers: Was last Saturday’s 11-strikeout gem against the Rays a sign that the young righty has turned the corner? It’s hard to overlook the 1.71 homers per game Fulmer has allowed thus far, yet that 11.28 K/9 rate makes him pretty damn tempting as well. His next start comes at the Athletics on Friday night, which will go a long way in determining if Fulmer, owned in 15 percent of polled mixed leagues, will see his ownership go up or if the “proceed with caution” signs start flashing again.
*Jose Ramirez, Plays Everywhere, Indians: OK, so he doesn’t have 1B eligibility (yet). I love the uber-versatile guys, especially those like Ramirez who can hit. Entering Thursday, he was owned in just 14 percent of polled mixed leagues and has scared some off while a mini-slump dipped his average to .287. Ramirez doesn’t have one true standout tool, but he has moderate power and should be on line for 10-12 steals. I can’t see him playing consistently at one position, as the Indians have been successful in plugging Ramirez wherever he’s need. He’ll do the same for your team if he’s still out there.