by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Eric Thames has spent the past three seasons playing in the KBO, putting up some gaudy numbers (.348 with 124 HR, 379 RBI and 64 SB over 388 games). It would be easy to get excited, but we also can’t forget that the KBO is the same league that Byung-ho Park called home and we all know how his transition went. Obviously the Brewers thought enough of Thames to give him a three year, $15 million contract, as well as cut ties with Chris Carter to open up a roster spot. Is there hope for him to deliver or is he safe to ignore for fantasy owners?
Remember Thames did have success in the minor leagues, including hitting 27 HR at Double-A back in 2010. The number that jumps out at you is his 21.1% strikeout rate at the time, so while he was mashing the ball in Korea was he able to improve in that regard? Here are the numbers:
Those aren’t poor marks, especially as he continually posted walk rates north of 11%, but we have to expect the number to jump with the transition. Obviously it’s not a perfect comparison, but Park struggled to a 32.8% strikeout rate in the Majors and 25.0% at Triple-A, after posting a 25.88% mark in his final season in the KBO. That’s roughly a 26% jump at the Major League level.
If we were just to use that ratio, lifting Thames’ mark from ’16 in the KBO, we’d get roughly a 25% strikeout rate. That’s certainly not a crippling mark by any stretch, especially for a player with his power potential.
He’s always shown the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, including 21 HR in 633 AB in the Majors between 2011 & 2012 (along with 36 doubles and 8 triples). While he’s not likely going to be an elite slugger, is it really a stretch to see 27+ HR to go along with a solid average (think .260-.270)?
There is the chance of him falling into something of a platoon, as the left-handed hitter struggled against southpaws prior to his move to the KBO. Even back in his breakout ’10 at Double-A, there was a distinct split:
That was a long time ago and we’ll have to wait to see if he’s made an adjustment. It doesn’t preclude him from being selected, it’s just something to keep in mind when you do add him to your roster. While we wouldn’t bank on him or dial him up as a must use option, as a high upside filler/corner infielder there’s a lot of potential. Consider him a must target sleeper in all formats.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MILB.com
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