'We can't sleep on Bubba': Thompson has game

March 27th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Bubba Thompson came in to pinch-run for Adolis García in the sixth inning of the Rangers' win over the A’s on Thursday at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa.

On what seemed like a routine line drive to right field from Kole Calhoun, Thompson rounded second and observed his options. Oakland outfielder Lawrence Butler made an awkward play on the ball and Thompson, ranked as the Rangers' No. 26 prospect by MLB Pipeline, took third and then seemingly ran through a late stop sign from third-base coach Tony Beasley to score Texas' first run of the inning.

“You’ve gotta talk to Beasley on that,” Thompson joked when asked if he saw the stop sign. “He gave me the ‘Go, go, go!’ and then he was like, ‘Stop, stop!’ But that’s baseball though. It’s inches. He saw something early that I couldn't see, but it all worked out good.”

Beasley confirmed Thompson’s account of what happened, saying it probably would’ve been his fault if Thompson was thrown out.

Thompson is quick, and savvy on the basepaths, with his run graded at 65, making him one of the most polished runners in the system. So it’s almost no shock that Thompson, chugging through a stop sign, was still able to beat out the throw at home.

That may be the epitome of Thompson as a prospect. He’s clearly talented and has the physical traits to make him an elite baseball player. Those things often make up for little mistakes. Rangers manager Chris Woodward described Thompson as a “raw talent,” but quickly corrected himself.

“I think that he's starting to shed that raw description,” Woodward said. “He's really refining his ability at the plate. He's worked really hard on his approach, staying in the strike zone, understanding who he is. He's got a ton of power. He's a unique guy with a ton of speed and power. We’re getting him to understand just how much he can impact a game.”

Thompson has struggled with injuries throughout his Minor League career, but he was able to remain healthy for the entire Double-A season and he posted career highs in almost every offensive category in 2021. He slashed .275/.325/.483 with an .808 OPS, 16 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Thompson also totaled nine triples and 48 extra-base hits with the RoughRiders, and he could easily be a 20-homer, 20-stolen base guy if he continues to progress at the plate.

Thompson will look to start 2022 with Triple-A Round Rock, especially if he continues to perform in big league camp. Through seven Cactus League games, he’s 4-for-9 with two home runs, two doubles, two walks and four RBIs.

One major criticism of Thompson in the past has been his discipline and control of the strike zone at the plate. Thanks to game planning with new hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Tim Hyers, and his overall maturation as a professional player, Thompson is developing into an advanced hitter.

“He’s really starting to learn the strike zone,” Woodward said. “He’s starting to talk like a hitter now. By the way he talks, communicates, and the way he's playing right now, it's been impressive.”

However, the real standout from Thompson has been his defensive work.

He was already an above-average center fielder last season thanks to his speed and adjustment capability, but he’s grown tremendously is his approach over the years. Beasley, who also coaches the Rangers’ outfielders, said Thompson is really absorbing everything the coaches tell him and it’s translating from practice into games.

“He's a real talented individual, and he's starting to put things together,” Beasley said. “His routes are getting better, they’re clean. His first step is really good. So I see a guy that's really worked on his defense. His throwing, he's gotten much better, his throws are accurate. He's got a little more carry on his arm now than he had a couple of years ago.”

Thompson has the ability to be one of the most well-rounded outfielders in the system.

Both Beasley and Woodward emphasized that Thompson is no longer trying to “out talent” or “out hustle” the game. He’s becoming more polished in all aspects of it.

“He believes that he can play and he knows he can play here,” Beasley added. “He's had success last year and he’s playing at high levels now. I just see a kid that's really coming into his own on both sides of the ball. We can't sleep on Bubba.”