Eric Thames in his first Major League at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during MLB action at the Rogers Centre May 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: Eric Thames
Eric Thames, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays promoted outfielder Eric Thames this week, replacing the injured Adam Lind on the major league roster. Thames has a somewhat unusual background, possessing a strong bat but not getting as much attention as he deserves outside the ranks of Blue Jays fandom.
Thames (no relation to Marcus) was drafted in the eighth round in 2008 out of Pepperdine. His draft position was deceptive: he was considered a borderline first round talent in the weeks before the draft, due to above-average power and a clean swing. Unfortunately, Thames tore a quadriceps muscle and went into draft day with an uncertain health status, hurting his stock dramatically. He signed with the Jays but didn't make his pro debut until 2009, when he hit .313/.386/.487 in 52 games for Dunedin in the Florida State League, his playing time limited by more quad problems.
In an attempt to prevent further injury, Thames took up yoga prior to the 2010 season, to improve his bodily flexibility. This bit of creative thinking worked: he was fully healthy last year, playing 130 games for Double-A New Hampshire and hitting .288/.370/.526 with 27 homers. He was off to a fast start for Triple-A Las Vegas this year, hitting .342/.419/.610 in 36 games.
Power from the left side of the plate is Thames' best asset, but he isn't a one-dimensional slugger. He has decent strike zone judgment and has shown the ability to hit for average. His overall level of athleticism is just average, but the yoga has improved his mobility to go with his strength. He has average speed and an average arm, fitting best in left field. He won't win gold gloves, but he won't hurt you much either, and if he hits as expected no one will complain much about his defense. He murdered right-handers in the PCL (.374/.452/.607) and still showed power against lefties, though with a much weaker batting average and OBP. (.256/.326/.615)
At worst, Thames projects as a strong platoon bat, but there's a chance he can do well enough against lefties to earn a regular job.