Sox prospect carries on family tradition

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Trayce Thompson stands a few years from reaching the big leagues and that’s just fine with him. He’s still quite enthused about being in his first spring training. And it hasn’t kept the 21-year-old outfielder with great athletic bloodlines from wanting to prove to the Chicago White Sox brass that he has what it takes to make it at this level.

“If it’s tomorrow, if it’s two years, wherever they send me I’m going to play hard, give 100 percent and that’s the way I was brought up by my dad,” Thompson said. “I just want to perform the way I know I can. Last year was a little bit streaky for me. I know I can do a lot better. As far as the next step, we’ll see.”

Thompson’s dad is former NBA player Mychal Thompson, who spent 12 seasons playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Trayce’s older brother, Klay, plays for the Golden State Warriors, while his oldest brother, Mychel, plays in the NBA D-League.

As Trayce Thompson noted, he had his ups and downs in his first full season of professional baseball. He hit .241 with 24 home runs, 87 RBIs and 172 strikeouts in Single-A Kannapolis last season, after missing the majority of the 2010 season with a fractured right thumb. A second-round pick in the 2009 draft, Thompson was ranked the White Sox’s top sleeper prospect, according to ESPN Insider Keith Law.

Thompson spent the offseason working out at the Craig Grebeck-owned Baseball Performance Academy in southern California. Thompson’s agent set up the arrangement, and the White Sox's prospect said he spent nearly every day working with St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire and Cardinals utility man Skip Schumaker. Thompson said he felt good heading into last season but soon lost his plate approach once the season was under way.

“It’s more so my approach than my swing,” Thompson said. “No one has the perfect swing and to the day I retire I’m going to continue to work on it and continue to tweak things. It’s more so my approach and developing a better approach, and I got time to spend this past offseason with a lot of big leaguers just picking their brains and even picking the brains of some of the guys out here the last couple of days. I was talking to [Brent] Lillibridge a long time just about what he thinks about at the plate. I asked for veteran advice from guys who are in the big leagues.”

Thompson played baseball, football and basketball growing up in the Northwest, and idolized former Seattle Mariners players Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.

“I just always had a deeper love for baseball than any other sport,” Thompson said.

A former high school basketball state champion, he still keeps up on hoops and tries to watch all of his brother Klay’s games.

“It’s nerve-racking going to see him play,” Thompson said. “On Christmas Day I went to see him play the Clippers and that was nerve-racking. Then I saw him play against the Lakers and that was really nerve-racking because he was going against Kobe [Bryant]. So it’s great to see him play. I always knew he could do it. And same with my oldest brother, I know he can do it.”

And it could be only a matter of time before Trayce Thompson, ranked the organization’s top power hitter by Baseball America, reaches the big leagues, too.