Thompson rises from platoon role to 3-hole hitter

Thompson rises from platoon role to 3-hole hitter

LOS ANGELES -- The continued ascension of outfielder Trayce Thompson continues to impact the Dodgers' lineup.

Fresh off a 4-0 win over the Braves on Saturday night when he became the first Dodger to record three walks and three steals in the same game since his manager, Dave Roberts, did it in 2004, Thompson was placed in the third spot of the lineup for Sunday's series finale. It was his first time hitting higher than fifth in his Dodgers career.

That might be the final rung Thompson had to climb up the ladder of the Dodgers' depth chart. Thompson likely only made the 25-man roster to begin the 2016 season due to Andre Ethier's leg injury in Spring Training, and he received most of his early starts only against left-handers in center field with lefty-swinging Joc Pederson on the bench.

During a month of May in which he went .270/.352/.603 in 71 plate appearances, Thompson started receiving everyday work at all positions in the outfield.

Thompson's solo shot

It's a progression that has certainly pleased president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who acquired him along with two other players from the White Sox during the offseason.

"He's the type of guy when we acquired him in the offseason, he had a really high floor and we felt confident that he would be a really good extra outfielder with a real ceiling to it as well," Friedman said. "That lean, the plus athlete, those guys tend to take a little bit longer to develop and sync up their bodies with the long arms. We started to see progress in 2015, over 2014, and he's continued to take another step forward this year and it's been great to watch."

Thompson came in second in the National League's Rookie of the Month vote for May, finishing behind New York's Steven Matz and ahead of roommate Corey Seager. He entered Sunday's game leading all NL rookies in OPS with .925.

That's the kind of bat the Dodgers are hoping can revitalize the third spot in the lineup, which has seen brutal results so far in 2016. The team ranks dead last in MLB in OPS from the three-spot with a .648 mark, which has come mostly from Justin Turner.

"There's not a person in our clubhouse that would say we're performing at the level of offense that we're capable of," Friedman said. "The veteran guys have those established watermarks of production. I'll put that on those guys, as far as the way they work, what they've done over the course of their career and as recently as last year. When they emerge from it, we will be in a much more dynamic position because of it."

While the team waits for the rest of the bats to heat up, it can at least enjoy what has been a youth movement in the lineup. Thompson, Seager, and their third roommate Pederson, none older than 25 years old, have more home runs than the rest of the team combined.

"It's great. Obviously incredibly talented players, but the work behind the scenes, watching them gravitate to the veterans and learning from them," Friedman said. "To continue that cycle [of new players], to create that culture that takes hold, we're seeing it right now and it's something that fits really well with the forward-looking position that we all have."

Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.