Eric Thames’ agent, Adam Karon, was the driving force behind the now-Brewers’ slugger’s decision to sign with the Korea Baseball Organization in 2013, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “My view was, ‘Look, you’ve always been successful when you’ve played every day, and you’re not going to get the opportunity here,’” Karon said. “He was the last man on the 40-man roster of the worst team in baseball.”
Then a member of the Astros organization and a participant in the Venezuelan Winter League, Thames scoffed at Karon’s suggestion initially. However, he had a change of heart and ended up inking a two-year deal with the NC Dinos. Thames became a sensation in Korea, where he toyed with the KBO’s offspeed-heavy pitchers from 2014-16. He parlayed that success into a three-year, $16MM pact with the Brewers this past winter, and the first baseman has certainly done his part to justify that investment so far. The 30-year-old entered Saturday leading the league in both home runs (11) and ISO (an absurd .506), and he has swung at just 19.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone – down from 36.3 percent with the Mariners and Blue Jays from 2011-12. There is skepticism toward Thames’ success, though, evidenced in part by the fact that the league administered him a random drug test for the third time in a 10-day span on Friday, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thames seems more amused than bothered by the testing, but he’s not sure how “random” it actually is, relays Haudricourt (Twitter link).