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We are now two days into life without James Paxton, Seattle Mariner, and the dust from the blockbuster has started to settle. Out of the three prospects the M’s received, the biggest name was easily Short King Justus Sheffield, and Kate took an excellent look at him yesterday. The other two are no slouches, either - righty Erik Swanson finished last season by firing 72.1 strong innings in Triple-A, with very solid strikeout and walk numbers. Outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams is perhaps the least touted part of the deal, but after an excellent 2018, he could turn some heads next year.
Drafted in the fifth round of 2016 out of the University of South Carolina, the lefty-swinging Thompson-Williams hit fairly well in Low-A in his first two years as a pro, although he struggled in his first taste of Single-A, putting up just a 47 wRC+ in 92 turns at bat in 2017. His speed and athleticism were readily apparent, and he kept sturdy plate discipline marks through thick and thin. The big knock on him was a lack of power - after putting up a combined .104 ISO in Low-A ball, Thompson-Williams had two extra-base hits in Charleston to close out 2017, both doubles. Not quite ideal. 2018 didn’t start out great for him, either, as he missed a month to injury after the first three games of the season.
Upon his return, though, it was as if a switch flipped. After hitting six total home runs in 2016 and 2017, Thompson-Williams bashed five in seven games, and the Yankees rewarded him with an aggressive promotion to High-A. The Florida State League is notoriously pitcher-friendly - the league average ISO in 2018 was a paltry .116 - and the Yankees’ affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons, play in one of the more cavernous parks. Undeterred, Thompson-Williams kept up the power stroke, putting up a 147 wRC+ in 375 plate appearances and a .227 ISO that was good for fourth in the league.
Grainy dinger footage!
...that swing put up those power numbers? In this video, Thompson-Williams seems to be all upper body, and appeared to lunge at a low and away pitch. It frankly reminds me a bit of our dearly departed Jacob Hannemann, though Hannemann’s power at any level has never sniffed a .180 ISO, let alone .200. Jerry Dipoto cited a recent swing change as a main reason for acquiring Thompson-Williams - a player type he’s been quite fond of, as new face Jake Fraley, 2018 draftee Josh Stowers, and Mitch Haniger have all fit this mold.
Oh, and he seems like a pretty fun dude, too:
Dom Thompson-Williams was out here in left dancing for us. I like him.— Kaci Barfield (@KaciBarfield) February 20, 2016
While there is a ton to like in Thompson-Williams’s profile, a few question marks remain. After never putting up a strikeout rate above 20%, he was exposed a bit in Tampa, with just over a quarter of his plate appearances ending on strikes. One should expect some home run regression, as well; despite a flyball rate of just 36.1%, his HR/FB was a sky-high 20.2% - not exactly a recipe for long-term sustainability. Missing a month due to injury is also a concern, although I was frustratingly unable to find details on what exactly was ailing him.
With nothing left to prove at the High-A level, one should expect Thompson-Williams to open 2019 in Double-A Arkansas, where he could slot into center or left field alongside Fraley and Kyle Lewis. After dominating a league where hitters often struggle, the more neutral Texas League could be in for a world of hurt. While one shouldn’t expect to see him in Seattle until 2020 at the earliest, his speed, ability to handle center field, and newfound power make him an exciting guy to keep an eye on, and it isn’t out of the question that he could move quickly should the adjustments he made carry over.