Eric Thames has been the story of the young 2017 season.
After two partial campaigns in 2011 and 2012 with limited success, Thames took off for Korea where he became a superstar, hitting 124 home runs and 379 RBI in three seasons. He won an MVP award and a trip to the KBO All-Star Game. While understanding that KBO is a hitter’s league, he hit .317/.425/.676 with 40 home runs in 2016. In 2015 he was even better, hitting .381/.497/.790 with 47 homers and 140 driven in.
While it did not seem like Thames would land anything other than a minor league deal with an American team this past offseason, the Brewers offered him a major league deal, guaranteeing Thames $16 million. There’s a club option for 2020 at $7.5 million with a $1 million buyout. While that’s not a lot of money these days, it’s a pretty nice deal for a guy with only a KBO track record.
In the early going that investment is proving to have been a fantastic one, with Thames hitting .426/.491/1.000 while leading the league with seven homers and seventeen runs scored in his first 13 games. There’s still a lot of time left in April, but he’s the front-runner for NL Player of the Month.
He’s also winning over the hearts of Milwaukee fans. Or else he should be with quotes like this one taken from a profile of Thames in USA Today:
“I came to Milwaukee before I signed, checked it out, and after an hour I knew it was where I wanted to be. I love the Midwest. I love the hospitality of people. And Milwaukee has great beer.
“I love beer.”
His production will determine whether he stays a fan favorite, but stuff like that will determine whether he becomes a local legend.