Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames is working his way back from an injury to his left thumb. It required surgery, leaving his timetable between six and eight weeks. Thames is about four weeks into his recovery process.
Recent reports say that Eric Thames is rehabbing at the Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training facility. That is good news. Without any setbacks, that means Thames could rejoin the Crew at some point during the month of June.
Will Thames Start?
Logic would dictate that Thames will be starting, or at least platooning, when he returns. Ji-Man Choi will likely be optioned back down to the minors, and Jesus Aguilar will be a part time first baseman again. However, the one detail throwing a wrench in all of these plans is Aguilar has been playing really well.
The Case For Aguilar
In 41 games so far, Aguilar is hitting over .300 with a wRC+ of 156. He has a smaller sample size hitting against lefties, only 25 at bats in 2018, but he hits them just as well as righties. In 81 at bats against right handed pitching, he has just one point better of a batting average. Needless to say, he has been excellent during Thames injury.
The Case For Thames
Thames also supplied good numbers before his injury. He put together a wRC+ of 154 while driving seven balls out of the ballpark. There is no doubt that he has more power than Aguilar. Thames wOBA is .401, just three points shy of where Aguilar’s is. Either way, both bats are going to play well.
Why Aguilar Over Thames?
It is almost interchangeable by the numbers. In roughly half the games, Thames has exactly half of Aguilar’s WAR. The strikeouts rates are essentially the same, but Thames will walk more. That is what makes it likely that the two will platoon upon Thames return to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The main reason Aguilar has the advantage to me is that he is keeping the line moving. He will not be able to keep up with a batting average over .300. It is likely that he will regress to his career .266 batting average. But prior to injury, Thames BABIP was lower than his batting average. Aguilar’s was higher. It just seems like Aguilar is making better contact overall, which is backed up by his lower percentage of weak contact.
With all of the talent in the Milwaukee Brewers lineup, keeping the line moving is really important. We have seen the team lose when the homers aren’t there, and Aguilar represents a bat that can help the team if they are in a power slump. It is also worth noting that Thames performance in the month of April is outstanding, but he dropped off last season when the month was over. So, why not ride the hot bat?
Either way, the Brewers will have a good bat at first. There are subtle differences that can really be argued either way. But this is a good problem to have. Platooning is the likely option, but Aguilar is taking advantage of the injuries in a way that makes a case for him to be the sole starter.