The Twins claimed outfielder Bubba Thompson off waivers from the Yankees, per an announcement from the Yankees. He’d been designated for assignment last week in order to open space on the roster for right-hander Luke Weaver. The Twins had a pair of open spots on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move isn’t necessary.
Thompson, 25, is the game’s fastest player by measure of Statcast’s average sprint speed metric (30.4 ft/sec). He’s also one of the sport’s lightest hitters. In 241 career plate appearances at the big league level — all coming with the Rangers, who originally took him in the first round of the 2017 draft — Thompson is a .242/.286/.305 hitter. That modest slash line comes in spite of a hefty .351 average on balls in play and masks (to an extent) a career 29.9% strikeout rate. Thompson’s top-of-the-scale speed is countered by bottom-of-the-scale ratings in terms of average exit velocity (career 84.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (21.9%).
As one might expect for a player with such prodigious wheels, Thompson grades as a sound defender in his limited MLB action. He’s logged 595 innings in the outfield and been credited with a +1 from both Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast’s Outs Above Average. The former high school football star has drawn praise for off-the-chart athleticism dating back to his amateur days, and Baseball America has previously credited him as a plus-plus runner and plus defender in center field while also cautioning that he’s a below-average hitter who lacks consistency from at-bat to at-bat.
It hasn’t yet manifested in game settings, but Thompson draws praise for his above-average raw power. He’s never topped 16 home runs in a single season, however, and he’s only reached double-digit home runs twice in his pro career. He hit six home runs in 362 plate appearances in 2023 — all coming in the minors. Thompson is a career .284/.347/.440 hitter in 677 Triple-A plate appearances and a .268/.329/.436 hitter overall in the minors.
Thompson will give the Twins some depth in center field and a strong defensive alternative in the event that perennial injury risk Byron Buxton isn’t able to suit up in the outfield. Knee surgery limited Buxton exclusively to DH work in 2023, though the organization’s hope is that he can return to the outfield in 2024. As it stands, lefties Matt Wallner and Max Kepler are expected to man the corners at Target Field, although Kepler’s name has once again been floated as in trade rumblings throughout the offseason as Minnesota looks to pare back payroll and Kepler enters the final season of his contract.
Thompson still has a pair of minor league option years remaining, so the Twins can freely shuttle him between Triple-A St. Paul and the big league team this coming season — assuming he sticks on the 40-man roster for the remainder of the offseason. If things go well, he can take help to offset the loss of free agent Michael A. Taylor, though Thompson has a long ways to go before proving he has enough bat to stick on a big league roster with any degree of consistency. If the Twins can succeed in coaxing more out of him at the plate, he can be controlled for another six seasons.