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Prospect Retro: Frank Thomas

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John is busy and sent me this to post.

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 Frank Thomas was drafted by the White Sox in the first round in 1989, seventh overall, out of Auburn. He was considered the most polished college hitter available, but concerns about his defense worried a few folks. The players drafted ahead of him that year were (in order): Ben McDonald, RHP, LSU; Tyler Houston, C, Nevada HS; Roger Salkeld, RHP, California HS; Jeff Jackson, OF, Illinois HS; Donald Harris, OF, Texas Tech; Paul Coleman, OF, Texas HS. All the position players were considered far toolsier than Thomas.

During his junior year at Auburn, Thomas had hit .403/.560/.601 with an incredible 73 walks against 25 strikeouts in 206 at-bats. He signed quickly and began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, playing 17 games and hitting .365/.470/.519 in a tuneup. Promoted to Sarasota in the Florida State League, he hit .277/.386/.399, not much power but he did draw 31 walks in 188 at-bats. A similar guy now with that kind of college track record and plate discipline would get a Grade A- from me.

Thomas began 1990 in Double-A, hitting .323/.487/.581 with 112 walks and 74 strikeouts in 353 at-bats. Realizing they had something special on their hands, the Sox promoted him to Chicago and he hit .330/.454/.529 in 60 games, exceeding rookie qualifications. By any standard he's be a Grade A prospect.

As you know, Thomas was a devastating hitter through most of the 1990s and is still effective when healthy even now. Someone asked what kind of prospect he was, so here's the answer: he was a terrific hitting prospect and the fact that he wasn't a great fielder or as toolsy as Jeff Jackson, Don Harris, Paul Coleman, or Tyler Houston didn't end up mattering one bit.