Eric Thames made his professional debut with the Blue Jays organization in 2009 with Dunedin, working his way up the system until his first call-up, 2 years later in May of 2011.
His career seemed promising, but after a short left field battle with Travis Snider, ultimately Thames found himself traded for reliever Steve Delabar, and was shipped to Seattle on July 21st, 2012.
Thames also had a couple of stints, with the Orioles and Astros organizations, before signing a contract with the NC Dinos of the KBO, Korea’s “Majors”, on December 9th, 2013.
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Through 2014-2016, he put up some rather mammoth numbers, making a case for himself with the MLB again. In a 3-year span, he tallied an impressive 124 home runs, while batting.348 and knocking in 379, while and also swiping 64 bags.
Milwaukee ended up biting and signed him to a 3-year deal worth $15 million, with a $7.5 million buy-out for 2020. The Brewers obviously have high hopes for him and if his numbers translate (even at say a regression of 10-15%) to MLB, they’ll have an amazing value contract on their hands.
The question is how his numbers will translate to the major leagues. Will we see “the Cecil Fielder effect”? Whereby Fielder, ironically also a former Blue Jay, returned from Japan with the Tigers in 1990, and promptly belted his way to a Major League-leading 51 home runs and 132 RBI that season. He followed that up with 44 HRs and 133 batted in ‘91 (amongst a powerful line-up that also boasted the likes of Mickey Tettleton, Pete Incaviglia and Rob Deer).
These are big question marks as there are not a lot of comparables. Most major leaguers who have plied their trade in the Far East did so in Japan. Both leagues over there though tend to have a smaller average player, which begs the question of whether an average fastball has a diminished velocity.
One also wonders as to the kind of stuff batters face in Japan and Korea. Some Japanese hurlers carry what’s known as a “shuuto ball” in their tool box, that breaks sharply down and in to right-handed hitters. Thrown well, it’s meant to break bats, or at the very least, jam righties and induce weak contact.
Yet another interesting story to watch this season in baseball: So many of us are curious to see how Thames’ new-found hitting prowess, exhibited in Korea, will translate back in Milwaukee and the land of Anheuser Busch.
I was a burgeoning fan of his back when he was a Jay, so I hope he succeeds now that he’s back in the bigs. If he does well, it will be a lesson to the Blue Jays, and all the other teams for that matter, who passed on his services.