How Diamondbacks OF Alek Thomas can finish his season on a high note
It’s been an up-and-down rookie season thus far for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Alek Thomas at the plate.
The 22-year-old broke into the majors with a .326/.354/.609 slash line in his first 48 plate appearances. However, his next 210 plate appearances yielded a slash line of .225/.290/.335.
And now, since the calendar flipped to August, he’s found grass more frequently. His average is .257, and he’s hitting .298 on balls in play in 74 plate appearances — 34 points higher than it was during that 210-plate appearance sample.
“When a three-point shooter starts off 0-for-6, more often than not, that seventh shot attempt is probably going to be … ‘Let me try to get a layup here. See the ball go in,'” D-backs assistant GM Mike Fitzgerald said in an interview with Wolf & Luke on Arizona Sports. “I think Alek was kind of going through that these last couple days.”
In his last two games entering play on Wednesday, Thomas has five hits, an RBI and two runs scored. He’s also reached base six times in nine plate appearances.
“The last couple nights in particular, it’s seemingly been a function of him looking to simplify the game a little bit,” Fitzgerald said.
The last thing Thomas needs to come around is his power.
After a .283 ISO — slugging percentage minus batting average — with three homers in his first 48 plate appearances, it’s just .103 since. The league-average hitter this season has a .152 ISO, so he went from 131 points above to 49 points below league average.
“[Thomas wants] to be a gap-to-gap guy,” Fitzgerald said. “But I think when we struggle and things aren’t coming as easily, being able to simplify it a little bit and say, ‘You know what? Today, a win is going to be if I hit four line drives … really be fine with my approach …’ I think he’s kind of gone back to that.”
Hitting line drives would certainly be a win for Thomas, as he’s been great when he elevates the ball.
In 102 plate appearances ending with a fly ball or line drive, he’s slashing .406/.402/.792 with a .386 ISO. Each of those marks are above the league average.
His 227 wRC+, a metric that accounts for run environment with 100 as league average, ranks in the top 100 of 249 hitters.
On the flip side, he’s slashing just .241/.241/.248 with an ISO of .007 on ground balls. While that’s roughly the league average on grounders, he hits the ball on the ground 58.7% of the time, the highest rate among all MLB players with at least 300 plate appearances.
Of the 217 hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, only 14 have a wRC+ above 100 and a ground ball rate above 50%.
Overall, the young outfielder is slashing .248/.301/.378. If he sticks to a line drive approach for the final 40 games, expect those numbers to climb significantly.