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Eric Thames has been the hot topic in Fantasy Baseball through the first three weeks of the season. People are trying to figure out what to do with the Brewers first baseman. Is this sizzling start for real or is it time to cash in before he comes crashing down?
The easy answer is to sell. Many will give that advice and talk about how pitchers will make adjustments and Thames will struggle since he didn't have success in the past. Many said this about Trevor Story last season. He had 10 home runs and 20 RBIs in April as a rookie who played just 61 games in Triple-A.
While he did miss a good portion of the season due to injury, Story batted .272 with 67 runs, 27 home runs, 72 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .909 OPS. Story was acquired at a cheap price and paid huge dividends even with the injury.
Thames leads baseball in runs, home runs, extra bases, extra base hits, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS. Thames is batting .408 with 18 runs, seven home runs, 12 RBIs, and a 1.459 OPS. We know he will cool off, but there are a lot of indicators that show he will have a good season. He is striking out 19 percent of the time and walking 13.8 percent of the time.
He has shown excellent pitch recognition. He has a 52.6 percent hard hit rate. Thames was sitting against left-handers to start the season, but with his hot streak that changed. It's a limited sample but Thames is six-for-10 with two doubles, two home runs and three RBIs against lefties.
Thames had major league experience with the Blue Jays in his debut in 2011. He had 12 home runs in 95 games and had a 22.3 percent strikeout rate with a 5.8 percent walk rate. In 2012, in 86 games with the Blue Jays and Mariners, Thames struck out 30 percent of the time with a 5.2 percent walk rate and nine home runs.
Thames then went to Korea and spent three years there and absolutely destroyed the KBO, batting .348 with 124 home runs and 379 RBIs. He even stole 64 bases. He has yet to steal a base, but the Brewers are aggressive and 5-10 steals is possible. Thames, 30, was given a three-year deal for $16 million by the Brewers. The problem for many people was the lack of track records of players coming over from Korea and having success in the majors.
From the at-bats I have seen from Thames, he has a phenomenal judgment of pitch recognition. He rarely swings at bad pitches out of the strike zone. Plate discipline is what prevented him from getting a job earlier in his career and now it is helping him have success.
Thames said in Korea they didn't challenge hitters as much and it forced him to become disciplined. Thames realized he was chasing way too many pitches out of the zone and fixed it in Korea. While it's only a few weeks, it has translated to the big leagues. Thames has a 16.3 percent chase rate, which is one of the lowest in baseball. Before leaving for Korea, he was at 34 percent.
Thames has always had power and he's in a great park for left-handed power hitters. A lot of people are going to doubt him and this will likely be the best streak he has this season considering he homered in five straight games. I have seen too many owners doubt players without track records.
I am optimistic on Thames and need to be overwhelmed to deal him. Thames wasn't very pricy in drafts. I took him in Tout Wars in round 10 of a 15-team league and that was aggressive compared to most drafts and acquired him in my 14-team home league auction for cheap. Some people in the chat room laughed at me.
I was offered Seung Hwan Oh for Thames and declined. I'd rather see how good Thames can be. If someone offered Clayton Kershaw for Thames then of course I am going to take Kershaw in that deal. If I didn't own Thames, I would try to buy high.
The next step for Thames is making adjustments when pitchers begin to figure him out. Either way, Thames was cheap in drafts and you might have found a winning lottery ticket. Unless you are overwhelmed in a deal, I say enjoy the ride.