Eric Thames hit nine home runs in 86 games while spending time with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners during the 2012 season. After being demoted to the minor leagues, he asked for his release so he could pursue a career in Korea. There, he breathed new life into his bat.
Thames hit .343 with 37 homers during his first season in the Korean Baseball Organization. The next year he improved to .381 with 47 homers. Last year, he blasted 40 long balls and hit .321.
The 30-year-old lefty is back stateside with the Milwaukee Brewers and has done nothing but destroy Major League pitching in his first 19 games. His two-homer night on Monday brought his season total to 10, three more than any other player in either league. He boasts an absurd .910 SLG and 1.382 OPS and leads the majors in runs scored.
In short, he’s been a one-man wrecking crew for the Brewers, who sit at 10-11 and are two games behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. It’s early, but this is a much more palatable position than was expected preseason.
Thames has been the story of the young season so far but it’s possible his April home run shower is being underappreciated. He’s not a household name due to his prolonged stint abroad and the Brewers’ relative anonymity.
His 10th blast tied the franchise mark set by Carlos Lee. It’s not inconceivable that he could match the all-time April record of 14 shared by Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Especially since he gets two more games against the Cincinnati Reds — a team he’s already victimized for seven homers in five games.
Thames may make history this week or he may not. Whatever happens, he’s announced his return with authority. He’ll eventually cool off and come back to Earth. But considering the prolonged success he’s had the last three seasons, he’ll have plenty of positive memories to fall back on.
If you’re not familiar with his name, get familiar with it now. This seems less like a flash in the pan than it does a sign of things to come.