It has been five years since Eric Thames has been in the major leagues. Thames looks to re-ignite his big league career with the Milwaukee Brewers after spending the last several seasons in Korea. But the Thames who left isn’t the same player after becoming a legend in the KBO.
Eric Thames never locked down an everyday playing position in his time in Toronto or Seattle, but with his experiences in Korea, and mega-success, he could be a worthy gamble by the Milwaukee Brewers brass. While the first base position has a logjam in the National League in All-Star candidates, Thames’ return will be an intriguing wrinkle for MLB fans both in Milwaukee, and those who watched him in Korea.
The Brewers were one of several teams that expressed interest in Thames after his remarkable career in Korea during his tenure with the NC Dinos, located in Changwon, South Korea. His time in Korea included an MVP season in 2015 where he was a dynamic player, becoming the first to join the 40-40 club in Korea Baseball Organization history, while also winning the Gold Glove.
While speaking about being brought in by Milwaukee in November, Thames said,
"“I’m so honored to be here,” Thames told reporters Tuesday. “Last year, two years, three years ago, I had no idea what the future had in store for me and I’m very fortunate that David and the Brewers’ organization looked at me with hope and believe in me and believe in my talent set.”"
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The Brewers have big expectations for Thames, who is counted upon to fill in the production of Chris Carter, who moved on to the Yankees. Thames is projected to provide protection for Ryan Braun in the lineup.
For the Brewers to exceed projections and avoid the basement of the NL Central, they will need Thames to carry over some of the great production from his time in Korea. No player in the Brewers lineup hit more than 20 home runs last season, and a jolt of power hitting is much needed.
Even the Brewers ownership said that this season can be seen as franchise-defining. Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, owner Mark Attanasio said,
"“This year will inform us as to where we are on the timeline for competing. The team will tell us where we are and where we’re going, rather than me dictating it.”"
The start of the new era for Thames in MLB began slowly, as Jonathan Powell of OutsidePitchMLB explained. While battling through defensive shifts, and surely re-adjusting to the level of competition that is raised from his time in Korea, Thames has gotten into the groove of things, and appears ready for the start of the season.
While Eric Thames’ numbers in Korea are comparable to those of Babe Ruth during his playing days, the Brewers will most certainly take simply a productive power hitter that can help them, after they took a relative-risk in bringing him in this season. Batting .348 and 124 home runs in three years in Korea isn’t likely going to be an exact translation, but even a fraction would be worth the move.