The man who was considered the top player at Double-A in his first full, healthy season comes in at No. 15…
#15: Eric Thames
Left fielder / 24 years old / 6’0″ 205 lbs
Born: November 10th, 1986 in Santa Clara, California
Bats: Left Throws: Right
High School Team: Bellarmine Prep
College: Pepperdine University
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 7th round (219th overall) of the 2008 amateur entry draft and signed $150,000
Jersey Number: #27 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats
- Named to the 2010 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game
- 2010 Topps Double-A All-Star
- 2010 Eastern League Post-Season All-Star
- 2010 Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star
- Considered Darin Mastroianni (#22 on our Top 50 prospects list) his most underrated teammate this past season
- 2009 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star
- His favorite thing about baseball is “crushing a fastball or a hanging off-speed pitch”
- His favorite TV show is Baseball Tonight, and his favorite team is the San Francisco Giants
- His favorite player is Tony Gwynn, but he also really likes Barry Bonds
- 1st in home runs (27), RBI (104), and total bases (261)
- 2nd in runs (95), hits (143), triples (6), strikeouts (121), and OPS (.896)
- 3rd in games played (130), at-bats (496), and SLG (.543)
- Tied for 3rd in doubles (25)
- 4th in AVG (.288)
- Tied for 4th in stolen bases (8)
- 5th in OBP (.370)
- 6th in walks (50)
- A short video interview with the local New Hampshire newspaper can be found here.
- A 4-minute audio interview can be found here.
- A video of Thames taking BP can be found here.
- A video of Thames hitting a grand slam can be found here.
- Courtesy of Gerry McDonald, a video of Thames driving in a run in spring training can be found here.
Extra Information and previous experience:
After being a two-time West Catholic Athletic League selection and MVP winner as a high school senior, Thames decided to start his post secondary career at Cabrillo College. Thames did not see any baseball action in his freshman year there, so he took off to West Valley College the following year. That year he hit .376 across 41 games with 8 home runs, 33 RBI, and a .667 slugging percentage, which helped his team finish No. 1 in the Northern California rankings.
Thames transferred yet again the following year in 2007, this time to Pepperdine University, and the results were impressive. In 53 games, Thames hit .320/.381/.415 , led his team with 44 RBI and 11 multi-RBI games, and led the entire conference with 5 triples. This showing persuaded the Yankees to select Thames in the 39th round of the 2007 draft and offer him 5th round money, but Thames elected to return to school.
“The Yankees made a very good offer last year, but I felt they did not get to see me at my best, they never saw me play defense, and they never saw me hit with authority. This year was a year where I really needed to prove myself.”
“I wanted another year of the challenge of D-I pitchers. This year I went into the season with a better idea of what to expect and with a chip on my shoulder. I knew I wouldn’t be on the radar so it became a goal to make a name for myself,” Thames said in a 2008 interview with Project Prospect.
Thames definitely made a name for himself the following year in 2008, posting unbelievable numbers and considerably boosting his draft stock. He hit .407 in 49 games, adding 13 home runs, 59 RBI, and 8 triples, while posting a team-best 1.282 OPS. After that kind of college season, the Jays snagged Thames in 7th round of the 2008 draft, and considered him to be their top power hitter in the draft.
Despite signing with the Jays very quickly (about one week after the draft), Thames was unable to play for a Blue Jays minor league affiliate at all in 2008. Thames tore a quadriceps late in his college season, which forced him to miss any New York-Penn League action as well as any time in the Jays’ instructional league.
After bulking up physically to 205 pounds prior to his professional debut with the Jays in 2009, Thames was lauded for his power potential, feel for the bat head, and his very strong lower half. He appeared in just 7 games for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2009 before skipping Lansing entirely and finishing the year with Hi-A Dunedin, hitting .313/.386/.487 while adding 15 doubles and 5 triples.
Thames’ 2009 season wasn’t entirely successful though as his quad muscle tightened up and bothered him all season, limiting him to just 216 at-bats. There were also some questions about Thames’ defense, specifically his fringe-average range and unspectacular arm to go with it.
Prior to the 2010 season, Thames decided to try yoga as a way to improve his flexibility and cut down on his time on the disabled list. The results were impressive, as Thames excelled at the plate and made minor defensive improvements but, more importantly, he was healthy for the entire season. His 58 extra-base hits and 104 RBI led the Eastern League, he tied for second in the League with 27 home runs, and Baseball America named him a Double-A All-Star. The Blue Jays also recognized Thames’ season by naming him the R. Howard Webster Award winner as their most valuable Double-A player.
To get Thames even more action, the Jays opted to have him participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted fairly good numbers (below). In addition to playing against the top talent in the minor leagues, Thames’ showing earned him a spot on the AFL’s Rising Stars All-Star team.
Expected 2011 Team: Triple-A Las Vegas
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: MLB everyday LF
Thames’ 2010 season was definitely a step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement. He improved slightly from a defensive standpoint this past season, but there is still a lot of work that has to be done in that regard. The Jays likely want to see Thames’ aggressive approach at the plate result in less strikeouts too, as he averaged almost one strikeout per game played in 2010.
Thames, who just turned 24 years old, will get the chance to make those adjustments next year in Las Vegas, where he will have to have another healthy, full season to continue his development and get his at-bats. It will be entertaining to see what kind of season Thames has in 2011, and a late season call-up to Toronto could be possible for him as well.