SleepersJuly 24, 2011

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Sleeper Watch

By Josh Shepardson

Free swingers rarely getting ringing endorsements from me, but one playing north of the border needs to see his ownership rise. While it may seem perplexing to think a player with just four home runs in 150 plate appearances could be a power spark plug down the stretch, a .216 ISO and 19 extra base hits in that same time frame suggests otherwise. Eric Thames has quietly been a solid performer for the young Toronto Blue Jays this season at the dish.

Rated the number 12 prospect in the Blue Jays organization coming into the season by Baseball America, his write-up lauded his plus bat speed and power as well as naming him the best left-handed power hitter on the farm. Last year he showcased that power in the Double-A Eastern League launching 27 home runs in 573 plate appearances. This season he started in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, a much friendlier hitters league, and surprisingly only hit seven home runs in 241 plate appearances, a pace that would have left him well short of last year’s mark. His other extra base production was tremendous though and he earned a promotion to the parent club. He has since been an asset at the dish hitting .302/.347/.518 in the majors. His walk rate has been down substantially from his upper minors performance, and his strikeout rate is up a bit, but neither are alarming and his strikeout rate is trending downward now that he’s settling in. His average is likely to slip a bit as his BABIP is sky high, but part of that is a product of a 25.0 percent line drive rate. On the flip side, his home run rate should increase as his 9.8 percent HR/FB rate seems low for a player with plus power and bat speed.

As a left-handed hitter, he displayed a noticeable platoon split in the upper minors. That hasn’t carried over to the majors (he’s actually hitting lefties harder, albeit on a lower average), but should be monitored. Knowing he has been much better against right-handers than southpaws, it would be wise for owners conscious of average to sit him against tough left-handers for now. Owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Thames is readily available for the price of on the house in a high percentage of leagues, making him a reasonably cheap speculative power add who won’t harm average.

Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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