Eric Thames was one of those players you wondered why things didn’t work out for him during his first go around in the big leagues. I know what some of you may be thinking, that I’m just saying this now simply because Thames is tearing up major league pitching since making his return. Truth be told, Thames was a promising young player in the Blue Jays organization from 2009-2012, which only makes it more confusing why someone as talented as he was didn’t make it in the big leagues for the long-term back then.
Although a below average fielder, he was always a solid hitter, and with a little more seasoning in the majors, Thames could have become an above average player in major league baseball. So what happened for him to end up playing baseball in South Korea for three years when it was clear he already had the necessary skills to make it in the big leagues?
Before making it to the majors back in 2011 with Toronto, Thames had quickly proven during three seasons in the minors to be a talented hitter and easily one of the best prospects in the Blue Jays organization. Thames, along with players like J.P. Arencibia, Brett Lawrie, and Travis Snider were looked at as the core of young players who would form a solid foundation for the Blue Jays to build off of for years to come.
Fast forward a year later to Thames’ second season (2012) with the Blue Jays, and he was traded mid-season to the Mariners for Steve Delabar. Toronto had parted with a young player far too prematurely, before really giving him a chance to see what he was fully capable of doing. Unfortunately for Thames, with a strange mix of over-the-hill and weak defensive outfielders in Seattle that included Raul Ibanez, Michael Saunders, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, and Franklin Gutierrez, the young and less experienced Thames strangely enough became an afterthought to the Mariners and he was traded to Baltimore exactly a year after being acquired by Seattle.
All in all, Thames would end up playing with four different organizations over a span of 15 months. At a stage in his career when he was still just 26 years old, Thames had posted a .305 AVG (.383 OBP) in the minors and had also played well enough in the 181 games he’d played in the big leagues, and yet here he was struggling to remain with a big league organization.
In North America, you would have thought Thames had done everything possible to have secured a place for himself in the big leagues. After all he’d accomplished in the minors and majors to that point, it appeared that major league baseball still didn’t think he was good enough for their league. It wasn’t until he went to South Korea and played three seasons in Changwon that he finally received the adequate attention of MLB executives and earned his rightful place to play amongst the games very best.