Midway through the season, Trayce Thompson seemed destined for a late-season promotion to Triple-A Charlotte, with an outside shot at a September callup. Those hopes died during a brutal slump that lasted through most of July and August, but he has dusted himself off nicely in time for the Southern League playoffs.
He's contributed two doubles and two homers to the Barons' playoff run, including this rocket during Birmingham's 8-2 victory over Mobile Thursday night.
On his perfomance this season
"I feel like I always need to work on everything as a player. You never want to be satisfied with anything you do. I definitely want to work on my defense -- defense is always first -- and then my baserunning. I always want to steal back, I always want to take more extra bases.
"Offensively, everything -- cut down on my strikeouts, have better plate discipline, take more walks when I need to, and be a better situational hitter. That's kind of what the minor leagues is for, though -- it's your time to work on stuff, and if they want you to iron something out of your swing, it's your time to do that, because you don't want to be trying to change a bunch of stuff when you're in the big leagues. You want to hit the ground almost running when you get there.
"Going into this offseason, I always try to shorten my swing. I'm a guy with long arms and long levers, so I always try to shorten my swing. So I'd say pretty much everything. I'm never really satisfied with my year, or with myself as a player. I'm always trying to get better and be the best player I can be."
On his defense
"As a kid, I grew up in the Northwest and Ken Griffey Jr. was a big idol to me, and not just to me, but to my brothers and a lot of kids I played baseball with. He always preached defense first, and it showed, the way he went out there and played.
"You can't really control a whole lot when you're on offense. The pitcher has the ball, and once you make contact, you can't really control anything. But on defense, defense is where no excuses should happen. Errors -- especially in the outfield -- I think errors are unacceptable. They're gonna happen, but me personally, I think they're unacceptable.
"Center field is my strongest position. I think the White Sox have been happy with me out there, and I know Daryl Boston really likes me in center field, so I need to work at it.
"Coming out of the draft, growing up, because I was a taller guy, and I had some power, everyone put right field on me, and I've always taken that personally. I'm trying to do everything I can to stick in center, and the last couple years I've changed a lot of people's opinions, but nothing's ever done, nothing's ever set in stone."
"I always take pride in my defense. You want to have your pitcher's back, and you want your pitchers and defense to trust you, and that's the biggest thing is sacrificing yourself for your teammates and the team, so defense is always No. 1 on my priority list."
On paying attention to numbers
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"I really try not to. It's harder in some places when there's a big jumbotron and you can't really avoid it, but I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to numbers.
"I mean, you can do everything right -- three line drives or four line drives and you'll go 0-for-4 for the day. [...] All you can pay attention to is hitting the ball hard. I actually had a lot of those days, especially in April. I didn't have the best April, I know that, but it's probably the best April, personally, I felt over the last three or four years."
"In the beginning of July, I got caught up in it, just because I had a good June. I just got out of my approach. In June, I was just thinking about hitting the ball hard and helping the team win. In July, I went through a rough patch. I wasn't necessarily looking at my average; I was trying to get hits instead of just going up there and having fun, see the ball, hit the ball. I was trying to get hits, and I think that's what got me in a little rut.
"Now I'm out of it and we've been doing well lately and hopefully we'll play two more games and get this championship."