In a very much unpredictable start to the 2017 Major League Baseball season, Brewers slugger Eric Thames is leading the league in home runs. He’s the first player to reach the ten homer plateau this year and has done so in just 81 plate appearances. On a list of such notable home run hitters like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, and Freddie Freeman, it is Thames who leads them all by at least three dingers each. In addition, Thames’ power surge has driven in 19 runs, and he’s hitting an eye-popping .371 at the dish.
Now here is the real question. Is this for real, or does the league need time to adjust to the slugging lefty? Although Thames has prior MLB experience, he is a new man, coming back to the states after winning the MVP award in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). I know that Thames won’t keep up this rate of 10+ homers per month, but is he a 30-40 home run guy? Only time will tell, but it looks like he’s just had a confidence boost and doesn’t have plans to slow down anytime soon.
I think Thames has a chance to become a star, and his jumpstart to the year is similar to that of rising star Trevor Story’s start to the 2016 season. Story has more to prove but hasn’t really panned out the way the Rockies would have liked. Unlike Story, who’s crazy April in 2016 was filled with both bombs and strikeouts, Eric Thames doesn’t strike out as often as Story did last year. In 20 games this month, Eric Thames has struck out just 18 times. In Story’s first 20 games last April, he struck out 34 times averaging more than 1.5 strikeouts per game. The biggest difference is putting the ball in play. When you put the ball in play, good things will happen, and for Trevor Story they did. To continue this comparison, Trevor had a .343 batting average on balls in play (BAbip) versus Thames who’s been making hard contact with the baseball, posting a BAbip of .385. Thames not striking out will be the key all season long, if he wants to continue his success throughout the year and outshine Trevor Story’s April achievements.
Thames has proven that he can hit all types of pitching. He can hit 100mph fastballs and any breaking pitch you throw at him. He can hit lefties and righties, from every arm angle and seems to be a solid all-around player. He plays a solid first base and isn’t a liability running the bases. Early on, it looks like the Brewers 3-year $16 million gamble is starting to become the biggest bargain in the MLB. Maybe his success can start a pipeline from Korea to the MLB and can open new doors for players from all around the world. Although Thames has much to prove, it looks like he’s started off on the right foot.
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