Eric Thames might just be one of the most interesting stories in the MLB by year’s end.
The former seventh round draft pick spent time in the Majors with the Blue Jays, who drafted him, and the Mariners between 2011 and 2012. He was a career .249 hitter with a total of 21 HR and 62 RBI up to that point.
After spending some time in the minors, he decided to play overseas in the Korean Baseball Organization, better known as the KBO. He spent three seasons there from 2014-2016 and to put it briefly, he turned on the “video game” switch. In those three seasons, he averaged a .348 batting average, 41 HR, and 127 RBI per season. In his best year of the three, he put up a slash line of .381/.497/.790 to go along with 47 HR, 40 steals and 140 RBI.
While obviously these numbers were in a league far inferior to the MLB, the KBO still produces some major league talent, as many players have come over in the past. It is still one of the more competitive international pro baseball leagues.
The Brewers took a shot this offseason by signing Thames to a three-year deal and getting rid of Chris Carter, who led the National League in home runs last season, so that Thames would have a spot to start at 1st base. The 30-year-old left handed bat will certainly not put up numbers close to the ones he did overseas, but his time in Korea just might have been what he needed to grow into a better overall hitter.
Thames has gotten off to a scorching start this season, hitting .368/.455/.921 with 6 HR and 11 RBI in just 11 games. Although this is a small sample size, and it would be unrealistic to think he could keep this up, there’s a good chance he could have sustained success playing in Miller Park.