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Trayce Thompson a rare high school success story for White Sox

Second-round pick in 2009 one of few prep picks to reach Chicago after promotion made official today

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to his brothers, Trayce Thompson's promotion to Chicago was a poorly kept secret.

The writing was on the wall when J.B. Shuck hobbled to the dugout after scoring on a wild pitch against the Yankees on Friday, but the Sox used the roster spot for Scott Carroll in what Robin Ventura described as temporary bullpen reinforcement.

In the interim, both Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors guard) and Mychel Thompson (one-time Cleveland Cavaliers guard) spilled the news. Both tweets were quickly deleted, but they were seen nevertheless.

Klay: "Some of the greatest news I've ever heard my little bro is in the majors. Words can't describe how proud I am can't wait to get to Chicago!"

Mychel: "Couldn't be happier and prouder of this guy, nobody works harder and you've earned it!! My little bro is in the majors!! Can't wait to watch u play!"

It's fitting that Trayce Thompson's White Sox debut has unfolded this slowly, because his career has followed the same path.

Thompson is only 24 years old, but in White Sox prospect years, it feels like his debut is closer to Carroll's (at age 29) or Junior Guerra's (30). That's because Thompson survived the long and grueling road from high school to the White Sox 25-man roster, which started way back after his selection in the second round of the 2009 draft, and that kind of development cycle is largely unfamiliar to the franchise.

Thompson's progress hasn't been smooth. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school -- a basketball player, if you couldn't guess -- but Thompson committed to baseball in his final year, and the Sox saw enough to use an important pick on him. They managed to forge his considerable tools into skills over the years. Thompson finally got over the hump by slashing his strikeout rate markedly this year in Charlotte, which was his first attempt at Triple-A. It came at the expense of walks, but at least it shows that contact isn't the problem, and now his hit tool is playable enough to be able to make use of his calling cards (defense, and power to a lesser extent).

Or, as Larry put it in his midseason propsect list, in which Thompson ranked ninth:

This 24-year-old has been hanging around prospect lists for more than six years now, and his 2015 campaign finds him back in the top 10. After two OK seasons at Birmingham, he showed a new, aggressive approach in his first taste of Triple-A, cutting his strikeouts down from 24.5 percent in Double-A to 18.9 percent in Charlotte. More contact has come at the expense of walks but I think it's a good tradeoff. His speed, defense and pop are a good profile for at least a fourth outfielder and this season has brought back hope that he may be a bit more than that.

So Thompson made it, which is something very few White Sox prep prospects have been able to say. The Sox have leaned more toward (junior) college players with their draft picks over the last 10 years, and whenever they've made forays into the prep circles, they haven't panned out.

This may or may not surprise you, but Thompson is the first position player to make it from White Sox draft pick out of high school to the White Sox 25-man roster since ... Ryan Sweeney, who, like Thompson, was a second-round pick (in 2003). If you're wondering about the last high school draft pick to stick with the Sox, it's Joe Crede (fifth round, 1996).

Over the last decade, you don't even need one complete hand to count the number of high-school success stories  -- even if you count players who eventually made it to the big leagues for other teams, which I think is fair since value is value. The only other position player to reach the majors was Chris Carter (15th round, 2005), who was sent to Arizona for Carlos Quentin before the 2008 season. The pitching side has a few more success stories:

  • Dan Cortes (seventh round, 2005). Traded to Kansas City for Mike MacDougal.
  • Hector Santiago (30th round, 2006). Actually pitched for the Sox.
  • David Holmberg (second round, 2009). Traded to Arizona for Edwin Jackson.

That's it, partially because the Sox avoided prep players on somewhat of an alternate-year cycle, and the years besides 2009 haven't panned out. Nevin Griffith led the charge in 2007, and 2012 rests entirely on Courtney Hawkins and Jordan Guerrero after the other prep players have stagnated in the lower levels, if they even made it out of rookie ball.

The good news? The 2013 and 2014 drafts generated the Sox' most interesting prep prospects in years. The former brought Tyler Danish, Thaddius Lowry and Trey Michalczewski, while the 2014 draft yielded Spencer Adams.

All of those players are still at least two-plus years away from the majors, and we're aware that prospects falter. However, it does look like draft system instituted with the most recent CBA has allowed the Sox to get more adventurous with high school prospects. The effects aren't immediate, and the farm system is still middle of the pack, but at least it has age on its side.


Update: Speaking of the draft and Charlotte, the White Sox announced a few unrelated but tangential moves:

Scouting: The White Sox promoted Doug Laumann to senior advisor of scouting operations, and bumped up Nick Hostetler to take his place as director of amateur scouting. Hostetler had been the assistant scouting director since 2012.

Charlotte: The White Sox released George Kottaras. Taking his place in Charlotte is Rob Brantly, for those keeping tabs on the third catcher battle.