With a shit-tonne of shit now shit-streaming in from Dunedin, it only seems prudent (read: easiest), instead of creating a massive commentary-laden Afternoon Snack, to pile all of the day’s links into one dump, then following that up with some expanded commentary where necessary. So that’s what we’re going to do each day. Unless we don’t. It’s your Further Comment…

This is further to yesterday’s Afternoon Snack, but so what? I wanted to say a couple words about Shi Davidi’s piece at Sportsnet on Eric Thames, and Thames in general.

You see, I’m not totally self-unaware. I understand that my constant backing of Travis Snider as the Jays’ Alex Gordon– the guy who takes a long time to figure it out, but at the minimum needs the opportunity to do it– kinda relies on diminishing the potential of Eric Thames.

Not only is that too-often a bit unfair, but it really tends to take away my enjoyment of Thames– who maybe isn’t the non-prospect I’ve often tried to convince myself he probably is. The Jays obviously think highly of him– or at least believe in the optics of thinking highly of him– grouping him with Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista for batting practice and what Davidi calls “various group work,” where Snider has been working with Rajai Davis and other less integral players.

“One of the holes other pitchers exploited last year came on fastballs high and away, in part because his upper body was too built to handle them. During swings his right elbow would pop up and force a longer bat path, something that’s been addressed with the increased flexibility he has through his back and chest,” Davidi writes, referring to Thames’ off-season yoga-and-weightlifting regimen that avoided building up his back and chest, specifically so he could make adjustments to his swing.

He’s come to camp with what Davidi calls “a shorter, more compact swing and a dramatically improved throwing arm.”

“I’m a perfectionist, I needed to find a way to get shorter because I don’t want to hit .260 in the big-leagues, I want to hit .300, I want to hit better than that, with more pop, so I had to be short to the ball, get more backspin,” Thames says. “I trained an hour and a half, two hours each day for about three months with my hitting guy to get that muscle memory, and in my last week there he gave me a hug and said, ‘A lot of the teams are going to come at you with the same book as they did last year, but they’re going to have to throw all that away because your swing is different now. The holes you had last year are gone.’ Now I’ve got to keep with it.”

It’s almost enough to kinda-sorta make you start forgetting about the tantalizing potential yet to be unleashed in his left field counterpart. Shit, throw in a few more walks and we’ll seriously be talking.

Comments (51)

  1. The one thing about Thames and his walks is that he always showed solid patience in the minors. He may not have huge upside, but it doesn’t seem crazy to imagine him as a .270/.340/.475 type of hitter.

  2. I really think Thames will be a pleasant surprise this year, he’s battled back from serious injury, holes in his swing, etc.  Just seems to get it and is willing to work to fix what ails his game

  3. Now all he has to work on is that “take better routes to the ball” muscle, then we’ll be talkin’.

  4. Good ol’ Spring Training.  Chalk this one right up there with “he’s in the best shape of his life.”  The amount of BS that comes out before the season starts is always really amusing.   I’m not saying this is necessarily false, but a HUGE grain of salt is required here.

  5. Yeah, I would be surprised if Thames wasn’t in the Jays’ starting lineup to start the year. And considering the success he had last year, he probably deserves the opportunity.

    I don’t really see offense being a problem for him going forward, it’s going to be the defense that is going to cap his value.

  6. I’m not sure how much truth there is to it, but when Thames was drafted he was considered a borderline 1st round talent but fell drastically in the draft because of a torn quad injury. I wonder if the Jays had got him much higher in the draft if that would have changed our perception of him?

  7. Stoeten, I’m with you on begrudging Thames any respect as a high-ceiling guy, but this kind of report certainly gives me pause.  I think any player who can make it to this level, should have the raw talent to be an everyday contributor to his team.  If he can work with great instructors and really implement what they teach him, then he might end up being a solid average or jsut above-average LF.  

    Consider this analogy.  Thames is on a parkway with a bit of traffic.  He is doing what needs to be done to keep up with the flow of cars, but the left lane is jammed and he can only keep up.

    Snider, is on a service road with a lower speed limit, but there could be an on-ramp to the freeway around any corner for him.

  8. And Thames is listening to hip hop while mentally planning his next yoga workout and Snider is looking for the next available drive-thru cheeseburger joint.

  9. Or cruising for tranny hookers…

  10. That too. Hugely so.

  11. Travis Snider MILB line: .306/.379/.522 with a 10.3 BB% and a 23.6 K%.
    Eric Thames MILB line: .308/.385/.535  with a 9.2 BB% and a 19.5 K%.

    Travis Snider MLB line:  .248/.307/.423 with a 7.5 BB% and a 26.9 K%
    Eric Thames MLB line: .262/.313/.456 with a 5.8 BB% and a 22.3 K%

    It’s certainly not a great statistical comparison given that Thames was drafted out of college and went through those same MILB and MLB levels at an age 2-3 years older than Snider.

    Barring some kind of Snider breakout year (which is getting harder and harder to expect at this point), though, it shows their offensive skills aren’t really that different.

  12.  except that with him and Cecil you can actually physically see a real difference. Plus, the reports on Thames all suggest he is a very intelligent and hard working athlete. He really does seem to be that guy that can over-achieve; because he has all the intangibles. I also roll my eyes whenever an athlete answers questions, and even more so when journalists report cliches as ‘breaking news’…but I really believe Thames is one of those guys to put some stock in…he’s got that extra bit that 90% of athletes don’t have. Will he be a superstar? Probably not, but I think he is a real asset.

  13. The reality is, it’s hard to judge a guy soely on numbers. He falls into the same catagory as Arencibia to me: not spectacular, but a good player, hard worker and man I love his personality. He must be a blast to play with if his enthuasim in interviews is even close to the way he is in real life. Hard not to like him, even if he never becomes a superstar.

  14. great piece stoeten. wish snider would twist their arms and force his way into the job given his ceiling and upside, but maybe just maybe one more crack at AAA without interruption could do him and the Jays a world of good. 

  15. I think Arencibia should get more attention going into this year. He may be a piece to really watch out for. Consider that every year he repeated a level, he hit like a machine. Also consider D’Arnaud could have kicked the door off of its hinges by midseason, and Arencibia has a lot to focus on and play for.  

  16. Even if he doesn’t get better defensively, I see no reason that he can’t be at least a Frank Catalanotto type contributor at the MLB level. Perhaps better than that if he proves he can hit lefties consistently.

  17. I don’t know why, as a Jays fan, I wouldn’t hope the best for both.

  18.  Hey, this can’t hurt:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/ne

  19. What?  the fact that Reggie Jackson and Lou Pinella are at Spring Training with the Yanks?  

    $210 million vs $189 million is really not of any consequence to the Jays chances.  It is still more than double our payroll.

    But, yeah, it can’t hurt.

  20. Love this gem from that article:

    “If you envision the pitcher’s hand like a little laser shooting lines, when you zone in on that, that’s what separates players.”

    Pew! Pew!

  21. I hope JPA has a good year. It’s likely that we’ll trade him to make room for TDA within 2 years, so the better he does, the more he’ll bring back.

  22. I can see that Thames is in better shape, but no evidence that he’s not going to be the chasing, swing and miss machine he was last year.

  23. Of course it isn’t a huge difference.  But, on some level, it’s nice to see Yankees and Red Sox makes decision based on lowering their budgets, rather than ‘lets get the best player available at all time regardless of cost.’  For example – see the Red Sox SS position this year.

  24. I think you mean Lind. Thames wasn’t bad at all for his first 300 career MLB AB.

  25. Only reason the ceiling is higher for Snider is cuz he’s an inch shorter.
    As for upside, I guess if they both laid flat on their backs, Snider’s fat gut would give him a bit more upside.
    E.T. should and will be starting in left, and if he makes some fielding errors, oh well, we’ll throw reeses pieces at him from the leftfield stands and move on. If Brad Pitt has taught us anything it’s that defense doesn’t matter.

  26. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzaaaaaaaaaaapppppp

  27. I like Snider and think he needs a full year at Triple A to clear the failures at the big leagues from his game. I think it’s kind of funny how just a few years ago we were hearing how Snider was a poor fielder. Now he’s the good fielder (of the two) because of the work he has put in. I think Thames should be able to get to be at least an average fielder this year.

  28. Give the man a 1B glove.

  29. How about Thames at DH in the future… if he can up his obp even a little bit (his bb rate was much higher in the minors). He was an xbh machine last year as a rook, and this will get him out of the outfield.

  30. I love it when posters here throw out words like “ceiling” and “upside”, like you really have a fucking clue. Or that it fucking matters? Top prospects flame out all the time, and guys come out of nowhere to reach great heights.

  31. I became a Thames believer when I saw him perfectly field a one hopper off the green monster last summer. He takes instruction well and executes. Nothing against Snider. I wish them both well. But with something as simple as taking off-speed pitches off the plate for the occassional walk, Snider still hasnt gotten it. 

  32. Jays need a 1B, LF, an, perhaps,  a left handed bat to platoon with EE in the DH spot. They also have to figure out what to do with JPA once Travis d’Arnaud arrives.  They have JPA, Thames, Snider and Lind to plug into those spots. They’re not making a playoff run this year, so at the very least, they’ve got this year to figure out just what these guys can do and where/if they fit. If it turns out that Thames can hit but not field, there is a spot for that.

  33. Amen brother. People can keep harping on “upside” and end up with just a bunch of what if, woulda, coulda, shoulda. Good luck to Snider, but until he knocks my socks off, I’m much more interested in Thames. Very impressed with his approach. Like old Jesse Ventura, he may have the body, but he’s all about the fucking mind. Snider’s all about cheeseburgers – eating them and thinking about them.

  34. Working day in and day out over the winter with his personal hitting instructor to rework his plate mechanics is great, but I was much more impressed by this bit from Davidi’s article on Thames. This guy is intelligent and serious about his game.

    “And by his own admission his throwing was “crappy,” but he has shown signs of having a much more effective arm so far.

    That comes as no accident, as he spent time studying the throwing mechanics of various pitchers before deciding to try and mimic sidearming Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale.

    “There’s a picture where his hand is almost touching the back of his leg and all that whip, he has so much external rotation flexibility, I was like that’s crazy, I can’t even do that ,” Thames says. “I tried to muscle it up and when I threw I’d feel it in my triceps instead of my shoulder. I’ve always been like that, I just got used to it.

    “So I did more and more rotator cuff stuff and brought my arm back further and further and now the guys have been coming up to me and saying, ‘Wow, your arm looks really good this year.’ Adapt or die.”"

  35. Wow, glad to see you have some optimism for the coming season! Asshole.

  36. This may or may not mean anything, but its something I thought of…

    I follow most/all of the Jays on twitter (sad, I know) and when there is a group function the ‘core group’ tends to talk to each other a lot.  Snider, Romero, Morrow, Bautista, Drabek and Arencibia seemingly have a good interaction back and forth.    I don’t recall ever seeing any of the Jays interact with Thames, and vice versa.

    Again, this could mean nothing but its something I found relatively interesting.

  37.  The Jays are fortunate to have a pleasant surprise with Thames. He tries hard. I don’t understand why some fans have to bash Thames because they want Snider to take his spot. At this point in Snider’s career it’s up to him. The Jays mishandled him since 2009. He will probably end up being a on another team by year end.

  38.  Isn’t there a chance that the Jays keep JP & trade Travis D’arnaud?

  39.  I noticed that as well. Thames is a new member of the team whereas Snider has been around for a while. ! One year ago at this time, Snider was showing the ropes to JP & Lawrie about being in the major leagues at a condo they had rented. 1 year later , JP & Lawrie are team stars & Snider is struggling to keep a job with the Jays.

    Colby & Lind aren’t on twitter as far as I know.

  40. i dont think so. the allure of an all star level catcher will be too much for them. if d’arnaud mashes in AAA as he should, i dont think JPA will be around by next season unless he hits like an absolute maniac and convinces ppl that his bat can play at 1B or DH. 

    i think he has more offense in him than he showed last year, but i dont think it will be enough to play at 1B/DH. hopefully he has a good year and then headlines a package for an ace-type starter.

  41. It was just a single game and a single plate appearance, but Thames had a really impressive walk last year late in a game vs. the Red Sox.  Anybody remember this? The bases were loaded but Daniel Bard had just struck out Wise and Yunel to get two outs. He also then got ahead 0-2 immediately on Thames. Most guys would have struck out in that situation (let alone a guy who is a bit of a free swinger), but Thames fouled off several pitches and eventually took four pitches off the plate to get the RBI. Bautista then walked and EE cleared the bases on the way to a Jays victory. Boston then collapsed as a team after that game in early September. Not counting Bautista’s many great ABs, that was one of the best Jays plate appearances all year in my mind.

    If Thames could show that kind of plate discipline and focus with frequency at the plate, the team might really have something in him. If nothing else, though, it showed he could rise to the occasion.

  42. That may depend on how Arencibia’s defense and pitch framing progresses. He’s not great in those areas right now.

  43. Thames seems like a different kind of guy compared to most baseball players. Judging by his comments, he’s very cerebral and he certainly always comes off as joyous/happy. That might have something to do with it.

  44. Complete aside, except when it comes to noticing twitter trends, but I noticed that Travis Snider is the only current Jay that Dirk Hayhurst follows on Twitter. Interestingly, the only other Jay-related player he follows is Kevin Millar.  Gotta say, that one floored me.  Of course, this may or may not mean anything.

    btw, he follows a ton of Tampa players.  Book three is gonna be juicy!

  45. I don’t see any scenario at this point where Snider breaks camp with the team..
    AA even said that spring training stats cant be taken seriously, which is true. So Snider in itself doesn’t have a job to win.

    That being said, he needs to go mash AAA for a while and wait for 1 of EE, Lind, Thames to struggle or get hurt.

    I can see a scenario in which Lind continues to suck balls,  EE moves to 1B, Thames to DH, Snider to LF.

    I’m hoping Snider gets atleast 300 major league ABs/

  46.  Im also hoping they give Snider a ton of at bats this year so once and for all we can put his “high ceiling” to rest.   you dont have a high ceiling if you cant hit a fastball.  sure he has more pop than thames, but that is assuming he is facing a meatball minor leaguer or major league shit baller.  any pitcher with any type of stuff just eats travis up.  thames actually has a fighting chance vs a laser beam thrower.  snider..none.  snider has to hope for mistakes and Brian Tallet arms.  I will bet anyone 1000 dollars that snider flames out this year and is done as a major league prospect

  47. Snider is a natural. and what happens a lot of times with naturals is they don’t learn the proper way to do things because their natural way keeps them successful .

    That being said, Snider’s swing is a bit long and since he’s such a wide body his hip rotation takes that extra split second in which a fastball can hurt him.  That being said though, if the commitment is their to adjust his swing, build better mechanics and shorten his swing, there is no reason why he can’t be a successful major leaguer..

    Plenty of players have come up with glaring deficiencies, but baseball is a game of adjustment.

  48. we get rid of mudpie and ice cream jonsey, so you decide to step up. who made you internet tough guy, ya dum mutt? your fucking shithead comment about upside just shows that youre too much of a pussy to do any analysis. keep talking shit, we need a new village idiot around here.

  49. just means he has better things to do (like getting in shape) than wasting his time on Twitter

  50. I’ve heard about Thames offseason because I read about it which means people talked to him and he told them what he was doing.  I haven’t heard as much about Snider but that doesn’t mean he just sat around and ate pork rinds with John Kruk.  I assume if he told someone he was trying to wreck his swing and gain 20lbs while smoking with Ricky Williams we would have heard.  Come on.    I also hadn’t heard much about Rasmus’ training but recently saw some reports that he was very busy getting ready.  Some guys are out there talking it up and that’s fine, some guys aren’t.  The proof is in how drunk you get.  I don’t think tweeting or not has anything to do with it.     

  51. Ummm…good one? I’m not going to even try to argue with a guy who comes up with the brilliant idea of Nuckl-mutt…Why not just post as your regular name? And I’m the pussy? Lol. Considering 4 people liked my comment it looks like it was fairly popular. Sorry dude, grow up…move out of mom’s basement, then we can maybe have an intelligent conversation.

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