The Diamondbacks announced today that they have optioned outfielder Alek Thomas to Triple-A Reno, recalling right-hander Luis Frías in a corresponding move.
Thomas, 23, has been one of the club’s most notable prospects in recent years. He was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft and featured on Baseball America’s top 100 list in three straight years starting in 2020, with his speed and defense drawing particularly high praise.
He’s now been in the majors for roughly a full season of work, getting into 152 games between last year and this year. The speed and defense parts of his game have been apparent, with Statcast pegging his sprint speed in the 89th percentile among qualified position players this year, though he’s stolen just seven bases in 11 attempts in his career thus far. In terms of his glovework, he’s already accrued nine Defensive Runs Saved and seven Outs Above Average in center field in his short career, as well as earning a grade of 3.7 from Ultimate Zone Rating.
The problem has been his work at the plate. Though Thomas hit very well in the minors, he hasn’t produced much in his 534 major league plate appearances thus far. He has 10 home runs but has walked in just 5.6% of his trips to the plate and has slashed .223/.270/.340 for a wRC+ of 68. That includes a paltry .195/.252/.327 line here in 2023. A career .257 batting average on balls in play likely suggests there’s a bit of bad luck in there, but it’s been a fairly uninspiring showing overall.
The Diamondbacks went into the winter with a surplus of young outfielders, including Thomas, Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy and Daulton Varsho. They felt good enough about the group that they were frequently rumored to be discussing those players in trades, eventually sending Varsho to the Blue Jays for Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. However, Thomas is now the second member of that group to wind up back in the minors after posting disappointing results, as McCarthy was sent down last month.
In addition to his own struggles, the demotion of Thomas seems to have been spurred by the ascendance of Dominic Fletcher, who was promoted a few weeks ago and has hit .377/.400/.604 in his first 15 games. He won’t sustain a .429 BABIP forever but it seems the D’Backs are riding the hot hand and will give Fletcher a chance to stretch his results over a longer sample of playing time. He figures to be the regular center fielder for now, flanked by Gurriel and Carroll with Pavin Smith in the fourth outfielder slot.
Thomas, meanwhile, will head to Reno and try to get back into a groove at the plate. From a service time perspective, he came into this season with 151 days and has already gone over the one-year mark, which is 172 days. Assuming he’s recalled at some point this season, today’s option won’t affect his free agency trajectory but it could impact his ability to reach arbitration after 2024 as a Super Two player, depending on the eventual length of time between now and his next recall.
Lourdes has successfully outplayed McCarthy and Thomas. Having a career year. His hands look as fast as they did when he first came up. I think this is a legit mid career resurgence for Gurriel.
It’s a miracle.
Alas, Arizona’s doubting Thomas.
Thomas’ muffin is toasted
Little Stevie Janowsky
Nah it’s just another player that’s giving it his all in his contract year so he gets paid. Some team with awful management will give him a big contract like the Lolmets or marlins and he will resort back to being mediocre to a below average player and the contract will be a big joke one year from now. Same story time and time again.
Hey man that’s a solid point, the contract year thing is absolutely something to be considered. All I will say is I watched this great segment on MLB Network where Yonder broke down the bat speed and the quickness of his hands compared to last year and a couple years ago, and that stuff looks faster than ever for him. He is staying on stuff and on time
Or some team will give the Dbacks something of value in a trade at the Trade Deadline. Dbacks won’t/can’t overpay for an OF when they have so much depth at Gurriel’s position.
I’m sorry but the whole contract year is one of the most cliche ignorant ill conceived notions out there. The vast majority of these guys have worked extremely hard to get to the MLB and continue to do so to try and stay there and or stay at the top of their game. Yes there is the occasional Pablo Sandoval, but contract year or not he never seemed to b a motivated work horse type. And guys like him have by far been the exception not the norm.
Little Stevie Janowsky
Wow man you’re coping hard after getting Báez’d huh?
@Tigers3232 I believe the contract year thing to be much more applicable to the NFL, for sure.
Makes sense. The guy who said that spews ignorant ill-conceived notions like Vesuvius. Or a ’55 Chevy that needs a ring job.
McCarthy looks to be tearing it up in Reno with a .368 batting average. Plus some power and speed. I wonder when he will get another call up.
I’ll bring him up if only to play against Cincinatti.
McCarthy always seems to instill a Reds scare.
Diego Castillo’s numbers are looking pretty good at AAA also; the only OF spot he’s seeing time at is LF, but he’s also playing SS/2B fairly frequently and bats right-handed.
Plus Dominic Canzone is another guy playing the COF, and he’s finally getting settled in offensively (his plate discipline has been much better this season than it has been historically); he’d require a 40-man move, though.
Buddy Kennedy has played very little in the OF this season (mostly playing at 2B/3B), but he’s doing quite a bit of damage at AAA as well and had high ranking Sprint Speed last season; seems quite a few teams missed out when they didn’t put in a claim during the Offseason.
There are quite a few options to sift through that are doing well at AAA currently, but I definitely agree on wanting to see McCarthy get another shot.
From the Diamondbacks website:
Outfielder Jake McCarthy, who opened the year in the big leagues, was hitting .258/.356/.419 in his first 16 games with Reno through Tuesday night.
He was probably looking at last season’s AAA numbers; McCarthy’s BB/K are looking better than they have historically, at the very least.
Put up or shut up if you’re a Diamondback. No more development at the major league level as they’re competing for the playoffs now.
Good move by Dbacks to exploit their depth in the OF by going with the hot hands.
Still believe in Thomas and McCarthy.
Frias has a lot to prove after his 2 April appearances—his first appearance was bad (1 2/3 innings 1 ER) and his second appearance was a disaster (3 ER and couldn’t get an out). Great showing in Reno though (1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched with 16 K)
Angels & NL West
Thanks for the Frias info. They may add additional content, but I just noticed the story doesn’t cover Frias at all.
As a side note, as I write this, Frias just got out of a bases loaded, one out jam in relief of Nelson.
And the next inning he imploded lol; at least he stranded the inherited runners
There’s actually a HOFer named Thomas McCarthy.
On Thomas…I’m not concerned about his .195 BattAvg. His defensive skills in CF are my focus.
Astros won the World Series last year with Dubon .208, Meyers .227 and Siri .187 sharing CF duties. Plus Maldonado .186 at catcher. The 3 CF played defense and Maldonado added his power. The team won despite those offensive weaknesses. Now, I’m not comparing the Astros to the Dbacks, I’m just saying that Thomas brings enough to the team defensively to justify having his weak batting average in the lineup.
Dude needs to learn how to stand still in the batter’s box. Too many moving parts.
You can’t tell him that.
He can be a real smart Alec.
AZ owns the first wild card.
These aren’t your older brother’s Dbacks. BaZINGA!
Angels & NL West
Though he’s not as athletic, I’ve read that Fletcher may be the best defensive CF of all the Dbacks young OFs.
Blue Jay’s lost the trade to the DBACKS, Moreno will be a star and Gurriel is playing great, good to see some good players on the DBACKS
But It Do
Why throw the word meanwhile in the middle of your sentence, breaking up its flow, when you could just start the sentence with it, Darragh?