This time last year, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames was not even with an MLB team. He was playing in the Korea Baseball Organization League. Fast forward to 2017, and Thames leads the majors in home runs.
Thames, 30, has gotten off to a fantastic start this season. In 21 games, he’s batting .370 with 11 homers and 19 RBIs. He also has a .904 slugging percentage, the highest in baseball right now. A few months ago, most baseball fans probably did not even realize that Thames had made the decision to sign with the Brewers and make an MLB comeback. He has very quickly burst back onto the scene.
This past offseason, Thames signed a three-year $16 million contract with the Brewers. He had spent the last three years playing for the NC Dinos in the KBO. Thames had a very successful tenure in Korea. In 2015, he hit .381 with 47 homers and 140 RBIs. He also stole 40 bases. This stellar season earned him the KBO League MVP Award. Thames belted 40 home runs for the Dinos in 2016, while also collecting 121 RBIs.
Before going to Korea, Thames had stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. He never had a big season with either team. After being called up by the Blue Jays in May of 2011, Thames batted .262 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs. At the trade deadline of the 2012 season, he was dealt to the Mariners. The Mariners optioned him to Triple-A prior to the 2013 season. He ended up playing for three organizations that year, but never made it out of Triple-A.
At that point, it appeared as though Thames’ MLB career was effectively over. He knew that he was not going to make that much money playing in Triple-A. Realizing that he had very limited opportunities in the United States, Thames decided to sign with the Dinos. When an MLB player goes to play overseas, it is usually because he no longer has what it takes to play at the Major League level.
Even after having tremendous success in Korea, there was no guarantee that Thames was going to do well for the Brewers. So far however, he has picked up right where he left off in the KBO. Thames has already had two multi-home run games this season. He suffered a minor setback on Wednesday afternoon when he left the Brewers game against the Cincinnati Reds due to tightness in his left hamstring. Right now, it is unclear whether or not he will miss any significant time. Fortunately, the injury does not appear to be that serious.
It will be interesting to see if Thames can continue his unexpected hot streak. He is undoubtably one of the best stories in baseball so far in 2017.