On Monday night, Eric Thames hit a home run at Wrigley, his fifth straight game with a homer. Thames, the Brewers 30-year-old first baseman, has a fascinating story. After Monday's game, he leads all of baseball in SLG and HR. So, you should get to know him if you don't already. I'm looking at you, ESPN.
After an All-American senior season at Pepperdine, Thames was a 7th round pick of the Blue Jays in the 2008 draft. In his first full year in the Jays system, he hit 27 homers with a .526 SLG while playing the outfield. Thames made his major league debut in May 2011 and went on to play 95 games for Jays that year (.262/.313/.456). After struggling to start 2012, Thames was demoted to Triple-A and then dealt to the Mariners at the trade deadline for 29-year-old reliever and 2013 All-Star Steve Delabar.
Thames never hit well in Seattle and bounced around the Orioles and Astros minor league systems in 2013. He put up respectable numbers: 10 HR in 420 PA with a .367 OBP. But, he never was called up and decided to take his talents to South...Korea.
Still just 27, Thames quickly became a superstar while playing for the NC Dinos of the KBO. The stats speak for themselves.
Thames also drove in 382 runs over the three years. And my favorite stat: after stealing 37 bases combined over six professional seasons, he racked up 40 in 2015 (the only 40-40 season in KBO history). Oh yeah, he also hit for the cycle twice that year. Not surprisingly, Thames won the 2015 KBO MVP. All 47 homers from that season are in the video below. Block out 30 minutes to watch.
After three straight years of Bonds-like domination, Thames signed with the Brewers this offseason for three years and $16 million. Over the winter, many writers and fans were intrigued by his potential. But recent KBO imports Byung-ho Park (Twins), Hyun-soo Kim (Orioles), and Dae-ho Lee (Mariners) struggled in the majors. Kim, in particular, came to the Twins after two consecutive 50-homer seasons in Korea in 2014 and 2015. Last year, Park hit just .191 in 244 PA. Nevertheless, people were still excited to see how Thames would perform for the rebuilding Brewers.
So far, so good. The Brewers are 8-6 and lead baseball with 25 HR. Thames has slotted in perfectly at the number two spot in front of Ryan Braun. Thames—and the Brewers—are worth keeping an eye on the rest of 2017.
Thames was a guest on Intentional Talk before Monday's game; it's a good watch. He'll be going for six straight games with a homer Tuesday night. The last player to hit in a homer in six straight was...Daniel Murphy in the 2015 playoffs. Sorry, Cubs fans.