After a down second half of the season in 2018 while splitting time at first base, the 2019 version of Eric Thames gave the Milwaukee Brewers a shot in the arm as his power returned to form.
The offseason had an interesting twist for Eric Thames as he performed on the popular show music show, The Masked Singer, in Korea. With the Milwaukee Brewers, he was expected to continue last season’s platooning with Jesus Aguilar at first base.
However an early season slump for Aguilar and the eventual trade to the Tampa Bay Rays opened the door back up for Thames who saw his playing time improve and he gave more to the team as they fought their way to the playoffs.
Regular Season: A-
Early on in the year, Thames didn’t get a lot of opportunities. Aguilar was the de-facto starter after a solid 2018 season and expected to take the majority of the playing time. The numbers showed that, as Aguilar had 92 plate appearances in his first 28 games of the season to just 63 plate appearances in 27 games for Thames.
The splits however showed the Brewers a way different story. Through the first month of the season, Aguilar hit .163/.244/.300 with a .544 OPS. He had just 13 hits, and didn’t secure an extra base hit until April 12th. His first home run was April 29th.
Thames in the same time frame had a split of .273/.349/.564 and OPS of .913. His 15 hits came in nearly 30 less at bats and had five five home runs to start the season, including one on April 5th to help the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs.
Thames’ first month numbers showed a much closer resemblance to the start of 2018 before he injured his thumb and lost his starting spot.
As the first half of the year went on, he started to look more like the Eric Thames of 2017. He had career highs in hits, home runs, doubles, RBIs and walks while hitting .247/.359/.518 with an OPS of .877 in 551 plate appearances in his first season back from Korea.
When Aguilar was traded at the end of July, the door opened for Thames to retake his everyday starting role. However the team decided to split time with Yasmani Grandal to keep his bat in the line up while giving his knees a rest at catcher.
Thames’ monthly splits were pretty consistent through the season, going .254/.355/.522/.857 in August and September. He hit nine of his 25 home runs the last two months of the season and played a key role in the Brewers race to the postseason with crucial homers against the Nationals in a 14 innings affair on August 17th and two against the Pirates on August 23rd to secure the win for the Brewers.
Overall, his stats were similar to his breakout season of 2017, but just a touch off due to 70 less at bats. He was 18 hits from his career high, and could have reached that career mark with his .247 batting average. It was a solid season for Thames, and he put up a strong case to return to the team in 2020.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a decision with Thames. He has a $7.5 million option for 2020 or a $1 million buyout.