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2023 Dodgers in review: Trayce Thompson

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last year around this time, I wrote that for the first time in a long time, Trayce Thompson had the expectation of sticking around in Los Angeles as an underdog who came through:

...Thompson has something that has largely eluded him so far in his career: he has created the expectation that he will be a regular on a major league roster. No one knows how long Thompson will remain with the Dodgers. No one knows whether Thompson will improve or regress.

...In many ways, Thompson’s story [in 2022] is a triumph of the human spirit.

Justifiably, Thompson was compared to the Cinderella Man, Jim Braddock, who shocked the world by winning the heavyweight title in 1934 over Max Baer. It’s a very inspiring story.

What people tend to forget or overlook is that Braddock only defended his title once when he was knocked out for the only time of his career in the eighth round by Joe Louis (yes, that Joe Louis). While Braddock held his own and even knocked down Louis for the first time in his career, ultimately it was just not enough.

So went Thompson’s 2023. Thompson had a guaranteed contract and started 2023 on the Dodgers’ opening day roster. Thompson made his season debut on April 1, which was one for the ages.

Against the future 2023 National League champions, Thompson did what runs in the family: he went for three. Thompson slugged three home runs with eight RBI, and only missed out on the rare home run cycle by failing to hit a two-run blast.

Apart from missing out on history, Thompson had an amazing night.

Unfortunately, during the call of Thompson’s third home run, Stephen Nelson made the following call: “No way. No way! Trayce Thompson, stop it!

In one of life’s cruel ironies, to the detriment of everyone involved, including Thompson, he did indeed stop it, with his offensive production practically drying up overnight.

For the rest of his tenure in Los Angeles, Thompson went 8-for-67 in 83 plate appearances, including 36 strikeouts and a slash line of .119/.289/.209. But that snapshot does not tell the full tale of Thompson’s offensive futility with the Dodgers in 2023.

From April 17 to May 27, in 22 games and 39 consecutive at-bats, Thompson went hitless with 23 strikeouts. In a quirk of baseball, during this stretch of play, on May 15, Thompson did have an RBI walk, which was a walk-off against the Twins.

No one would have faulted Thompson for lashing out, growing sullen, or blaming others for his lot in life. Thompson just did what he could: he just kept going, telling the Orange County Register that he felt due.

On May 28 against the Rays, Thompson finally broke through in a 3-for-3 game against the then-best team in baseball. The home run to dead center was just the icing on the cake.

Thompson appeared in just two more games for the Dodgers after his resurgent game in Tampa. He injured his oblique on a check swing against the Yankees on June 3 and was on the injured list on June 4. One week later, Thompson was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

While on a rehab assignment, Thompson’s time with the Dodgers came to an end. On July 28, Thompson was traded to the Chicago White Sox with Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure for Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn.

Thompson reverted to his slump form with the White Sox after returning to the Major Leagues once rosters expanded. In 36 games, Thompson went 14 for 82 with 40 strikeouts and a slash line of .171/.261/.232.

Unsurprisingly, Thompson was outrighted to Triple-A on November 3, and on November 6, Thompson elected free agency.

Now Thompson is in the position he was before returning to the Dodgers in 2022: a journeyman trying to stick with a major league roster. No one can take away the magical days that Thompson had with the Dodgers. Unfortunately for all involved, in 2023, those days were far too brief with far too much in between.

2023 particulars

Age: 32

Stats: .155/.310/.366, 92 wRC+, 87 PA, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 15 BB, 37 K, 0.2 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR with LA

Salary: $1.45 million, of which $943,280 was paid by the Dodgers

Game of the year

Thompson’s game of the year was his first game of the year, a three home run, eight-RBI explosion that teased of brighter days that just did not come.

Roster status

Thompson is a free agent.