ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks CF Alek Thomas looking for better start in pursuit of Gold Glove

Mar 5, 2024, 5:26 PM

ALEK THOMAS CF...

Alek Thomas of the Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training at Salt River Fields. (Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

(Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

SCOTTSDALE — Not many fly balls were safe from Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Alek Thomas’ leather in the back half of last season.

Even with the many nooks and crannies along Chase Field’s warning track, Thomas seemingly mastered the ability to go track baseballs behind him and make catches near the wall.

But the third-year major leaguer wasn’t entirely satisfied with his 2023 season even with five defensive runs saved and six outs above average. Thomas didn’t rush out the gate the way he wanted to, and leaving some tough plays on the table early stuck with him and impacted his metrics.

“For the most part, the mistakes I made were very simple,” Thomas told Arizona Sports. “Like, get the ball first and then throw, or not rush. Early in the season, my legs weren’t totally underneath me, but that’s not an excuse. So I felt like I was a little slow during the start of this season. So it’s being able to be 100% full speed early on in the season and getting the balls that I normally get to.

“… I want my July, August, September reads to be there in late March, April, May. I want it to be all the time, not just 70% of the season.”

The 23-year-old was named a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight year, but similar to his rookie 2022 season, he came up short. The reigning NL Gold Glove center fielder is Brenton Doyle of the Colorado Rockies, who led all center fielders with 15 OAA and 19 DRS.

It’s a goal of Thomas’ to win multiple Gold Glove awards — something no D-backs outfielder has accomplished since Gerardo Parra in 2013 — and he feels he’ll get there if he plays up to his standards from the jump.

“Taking batting practice seriously, good reps and also getting with my strength coaches and getting on resistant bands and challenging myself, trying to push through to expand my range,” Thomas said.

Thomas plays on a team that emphasizes defense, one that had Gold Glovers in first baseman Christian Walker and catcher Gabriel Moreno last year, and works with touted outfield coach Dave McKay.

Arizona was a top-tier defensive team last year metrically and had the fewest errors in baseball. Thomas was a key component to bolstering up-the-middle with Moreno and infielders Geraldo Perdomo and Ketel Marte.

“I think the intensity of his prep and his willingness to make everybody around him better is going to help him, as well,” manager Torey Lovullo said of Thomas. “So I think there’s some growth for every player and even though he’s elite, I challenged him to continue getting better.”

Thomas missed a handful of spring training games with right wrist soreness, but he returned to the lineup on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres. He even made a sliding catch on a low sinking liner to his right.

The D-backs have improved their outfield depth this offseason by bringing in Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk, as well as re-signing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Corbin Carroll may see some time in center field, as could Grichuk once he works back from ankle surgery.

But Lovullo has said he wants to see Thomas in a more everyday role to anchor the outfield.

To do that and give himself the best chance at gold hardware, Thomas will have to continue to progress offensively and handle himself against lefties.

“We’re all in on him improving day-by-day and he accepts coaching so this should be something where you see him continue to improve throughout the course of his career,” Lovullo said early in camp. “Specifically left-on-left we want to see him improve in that area and just be consistent with his barrel awareness and track the baseball and and slug when he can, put down the bat when he can and take a walk.”

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