Thole Not Feeling Outside Pressures

He is another piece of a young squad. On some days, the 20-year-old first baseman is the oldest one in the Savannah infield. The challenges seem daunting but the skills are improving. Yet, Thole battles each day as he overcomes his immaturity and takes steps towards becoming the ballplayer he wants to be.

Unlike most young farm hands, Josh Thole faces pressure more so from within than outside forces. As the only first baseman on the Savannah roster, he need not worry about losing his job from competition. His job, currently, is his and his alone. That security has allowed him to put all of his focus into his game.

"I know good and well that I'm going to have hitless games but I know I'm still going to be in there the next day," said Thole. "It's unlike last year where I would get my shot maybe once or twice a week. I play a lot more relaxed and I can go out there and just enjoy playing ball."

He spent 2006 with Kingsport, so this year's promotion to Savannah excited him. He knew right from the start, this season would offer something entirely different and that he had to take advantage.

"It's great. I didn't have to go through extended spring training. It's really what playing minor league baseball is all about. Our record may not show it, but our team is playing well. Even in losses, we are proud of our performance and our effort," he said.

His numbers with Kingsport did not jump of the page, but nonetheless, he showed observers and coaches enough to warrant his current roster spot. He has not let them down.

His bat, still in need of refinement, has contributed mightily to the struggling Sand Gnat order. Despite a slow April in which he hit under .260, Thole rebounded in May with a near .350 clip. Currently, he leads the team in doubles, RBI, and walks, and ranks in the top three in average, on-base percentage and hits. He may show a zero in the home run category, but that is not his focus. He is a gap hitter, a line drive hitter and the numbers dictate that.

"I don't want to take the mentality of that I'm trying to a hit home run. I want the mentality of hitting doubles to the gap. Honestly, I try never to think about hitting home runs. Everyday, I'm getting my work in the cage. I'd rather hit the ball between the outfielders, and eventually, maybe they will start going over the wall," Thole explained.

His stroke is certainly a leading positive in his game. But it is in those walks, and the patience to collect those walks, where he is ahead of the curve. He boasts a one-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio and possesses a knack for extending at-bats until he gets his pitch. Many hitters at his level tend to wait for the fastball and nothing else. However, Thole's ability to hit and fight off secondary pitches is one of his most significant advancements as a player. His walks and high on-base percentage are a direct reflection of this work.

"It began in spring training. We had many meetings about how to work certain counts, when to expect certain pitches in certain counts and so on. I'm really comfortable with the progress I've made," he said.

Another glaring note of his offensive game is his success with runners on-base, and in scoring position. Coming into Friday, he hit just barely over .200 with the bases empty. Yet, with baserunners and men in scoring position, those averages jump to .370 and .400 respectively. He attributes those numbers to his aggressiveness when faced with the situation.

"When I get a shot with runners in scoring position, I'm just thinking about putting the ball in play anywhere, no matter how I do it. It's an area that's been a positive for me. I'm working against swinging through pitches," he explained.

On the other side of the field, Thole plays an imperative role on defense. At first base he is many times the anchor for a Sand Gnat infield that has committed a shocking amount of errors. He must always be alert on the bag for errant throws and bad hops may come at any time.

He works extensively with manager Tim Teufel on his reaction time and footwork. He has been very solid at the bag so far this season (3 errors). Despite his success, he knows he has a long way to go.

"Defensively, there is always something new for me to learn at first base, even though it's not a new position," he said.

He also serves another role defensively; he is the team's emergency catcher. So in case the situation was to arise, he is not averse to getting behind the dish.

Thole has the instincts and the ability to get his name out there. Right now, he best mirrors another gap hitting, smooth swinging corner infielder – Dan Murphy. At this rate, good things should be in store if he keeps his eagerness to learn and adapt. For now, it's all about plugging away in Savannah.

"I just hope to keep playing well everyday and get a shot to move up," he closed. "I just want to show that I can play well enough to get that call to the next level."

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nUnlike most young farm hands, Josh Thole faces pressure more so from within than outside forces. As the only first baseman on the Savannah roster, he need not worry about losing his job from competition. His job, currently, is his and his alone. That security has allowed him to put all of his focus into his game.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know good and well that I'm going to have hitless games but I know I'm still going to be in there the next day,\" said Thole. \"It's unlike last year where I would get my shot maybe once or twice a week. I play a lot more relaxed and I can go out there and just enjoy playing ball.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe spent 2006 with Kingsport, so this year's promotion to Savannah excited him. He knew right from the start, this season would offer something entirely different and that he had to take advantage.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's great. I didn't have to go through extended spring training. It's really what playing minor league baseball is all about. Our record may not show it, but our team is playing well. Even in losses, we are proud of our performance and our effort,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nHis numbers with Kingsport did not jump of the page, but nonetheless, he showed observers and coaches enough to warrant his current roster spot. He has not let them down.
\r\n
\r\nHis bat, still in need of refinement, has contributed mightily to the struggling Sand Gnat order. Despite a slow April in which he hit under .260, Thole rebounded in May with a near .350 clip. Currently, he leads the team in doubles, RBI, and walks, and ranks in the top three in average, on-base percentage and hits. He may show a zero in the home run category, but that is not his focus. He is a gap hitter, a line drive hitter and the numbers dictate that.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't want to take the mentality of that I'm trying to a hit home run. I want the mentality of hitting doubles to the gap. Honestly, I try never to think about hitting home runs. Everyday, I'm getting my work in the cage. I'd rather hit the ball between the outfielders, and eventually, maybe they will start going over the wall,\" Thole explained.
\r\n
\r\nHis stroke is certainly a leading positive in his game. But it is in those walks, and the patience to collect those walks, where he is ahead of the curve. He boasts a one-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio and possesses a knack for extending at-bats until he gets his pitch. Many hitters at his level tend to wait for the fastball and nothing else. However, Thole's ability to hit and fight off secondary pitches is one of his most significant advancements as a player. His walks and high on-base percentage are a direct reflection of this work.
\r\n
\r\n\"It began in spring training. We had many meetings about how to work certain counts, when to expect certain pitches in certain counts and so on. I'm really comfortable with the progress I've made,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nAnother glaring note of his offensive game is his success with runners on-base, and in scoring position. Coming into Friday, he hit just barely over .200 with the bases empty. Yet, with baserunners and men in scoring position, those averages jump to .370 and .400 respectively. He attributes those numbers to his aggressiveness when faced with the situation.
\r\n
\r\n\"When I get a shot with runners in scoring position, I'm just thinking about putting the ball in play anywhere, no matter how I do it. It's an area that's been a positive for me. I'm working against swinging through pitches,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nOn the other side of the field, Thole plays an imperative role on defense. At first base he is many times the anchor for a Sand Gnat infield that has committed a shocking amount of errors. He must always be alert on the bag for errant throws and bad hops may come at any time.
\r\n
\r\nHe works extensively with manager Tim Teufel on his reaction time and footwork. He has been very solid at the bag so far this season (3 errors). Despite his success, he knows he has a long way to go.
\r\n
\r\n\"Defensively, there is always something new for me to learn at first base, even though it's not a new position,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nHe also serves another role defensively; he is the team's emergency catcher. So in case the situation was to arise, he is not averse to getting behind the dish.
\r\n
\r\nThole has the instincts and the ability to get his name out there. Right now, he best mirrors another gap hitting, smooth swinging corner infielder – Dan Murphy. At this rate, good things should be in store if he keeps his eagerness to learn and adapt. For now, it's all about plugging away in Savannah.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just hope to keep playing well everyday and get a shot to move up,\" he closed. \"I just want to show that I can play well enough to get that call to the next level.\"
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