Alek Thomas Discusses His Minor League Progression
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, Feb. 23 — On a cold, rainy Wednesday at Salt River Fields, a handful of media members bundled up and hung out in a white tent for most of the morning. Their patience paid off when Arizona Diamondbacks center field prospect Alek Thomas sat at a table and fielded questions.
Thomas is the son of Allen Thomas, who was the strength and conditioning coordinator for the Chicago White Sox during 18 of the seasons between 1998 and 2021. The Diamondbacks drafted Alek in the second round of the 2018 draft. He played rookie ball in the 2018 season with both the Arizona League Diamondbacks and the Pioneer League Missoula (MT) Osprey. With the Rookie Diamondbacks, he slashed .325/.394/.431, and with the Osprey he slashed .342/.396/.496. His wOBA and wRAA were .394/6.5 with the Rookie Diamondbacks and .398/6.0 with the Osprey.
Thomas opened 2019 with the Kane County Cougars of the Single-A Midwest League. He slashed .312/.393/.479 in 91 games there with a .403 wOBA and 24.4 wRAA. This earned him a promotion to the Visalia (CA) Rawhide of the High-A California League in early August. With the Rawhide, his production dipped slightly. His slash line was .255/.327/.340 with a .311 wOBA and -1.4 wRAA.
After missing 2020 due to the shutdown of the minor leagues, Thomas started 2021 with the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles of the former Texas League, which is now called the Double-A Central. In Amarillo, he batted leadoff and slashed .283/.374/.507 (81-for-286) with 18 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, a .388 wOBA, and 14.6 wRAA. This earned him a mid-August promotion to the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he slashed .369/.434/.658 (55-for-149) with 11 doubles, four triples, eight home runs, a .453 wOBA, and 16.6 wRAA.
What Alek Thomas Is Working on at Mini-Camp
Thomas said it took him a little bit to “get the hang of things again” in mini-camp, but that it’s also “been great seeing all the faces I haven’t seen in a while.” He added, “I’m just continuing to work on what I left off on last year…. Hitting routine. Outfield drills, baserunning. (I’ve) been out there with…our outfield coordinator (a little bit), and we’ve just been grinding.”
One of the biggest adjustments he had to make when reaching Triple-A was when to swing. From Double-A down, every hitter had to take the first strike. But in Triple-A, pitchers are often good enough to regularly throw strikes early in the count. If hitters take the first strike, that pitch can easily be the only one they’ll see that’s good enough to drive. Thomas said about that, “I needed to get over that mentally and throw that out the door. It took me a second. I was being hard-headed…. Once I got over that and just let it go, I became a better hitter and learned a few things from it. That’s what helped me have success in Reno.”
Learning from Big Leaguers at an Early Age
Since Alek’s father started on the White Sox staff before he was born, Alek spent a lot of time around major leaguers. This helped him glean a wealth of knowledge as he was developing into a top prospect. “I’ve been around a lot of the guys, to be honest but like. I can name off a whole lot. Jim Thome was a big guide for me, having the same mental approach and being a good guy on and off the field. Adam Engel, I spent a lot of time with. Adam Eaton. Juan Pierre. Andruw Jones a little bit…. Todd Frazier. Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu. The whole team, pretty much, from 2003 to now.
He continued, “I have a relationship with most of them. Nothing but nice things to say about all of them. I learned a whole lot from just being in that atmosphere, being in the clubhouse as a kid, and being a young adult being around them as well. (This includes) what to do and what not to do.”
Alek Thomas about Getting to the Big Leagues
For Alek Thomas, it is “definitely a goal” to reach the big leagues. But his “main goal is to stay (in the majors), continue to impact the team, and not be an up-and-down guy. I want to make an impact and stay there for as long as possible.”
Will that happen this year? Who knows. Thomas feels like it’s more in reach. Given his impact in Reno, Diamondbacks fans could be in for quite a ride once it happens.