This oft-overlooked prospect is turning heads at Double-A Midland

April 20th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CLEVELAND -- All has done since entering the A’s organization is perform as the top hitter of each team he has played for. Yet when it came to preseason prospect buzz, his name flew largely under the radar.

Thomas does not rank anywhere near MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. He’s not even ranked among the Top 10 prospects in Oakland’s farm system, coming in at No. 13.

Maybe it’s the fact that he attended a smaller school in Mercer University. Perhaps it’s because he was a third-round pick by the A’s in the 2022 MLB Draft rather than a first-round selection. Whatever the case, Thomas is doing all he can to ensure he no longer goes underrated.

Beginning the 2024 season on a stacked Double-A Midland squad that currently features 10 of Oakland’s Top 30 prospects, including A’s No. 1 prospect and MLB’s No. 61 prospect Jacob Wilson, Thomas is standing out. Through 12 games, the 23-year-old outfielder is hitting .347 with a 1.033 OPS, four homers, two doubles, seven RBIs and three stolen bases. He earned a spot on MLB Pipeline’s first Team of the Week after hitting .472 with four homers in nine games.

The early-season success aligns with how Thomas performed last year in his first full season as a professional. Between Single-A Stockton and High-A Lansing, Thomas displayed an intriguing power-speed combo, hitting 18 homers with 39 doubles, six triples and 25 stolen bases in 126 games while hitting .286 with a .844 OPS.

“He’s doing what he does,” Grady Fuson, special assistant to GM David Forst, said of Thomas earlier this week on A’s Cast. “He’s aggressive. Tremendous hand speed and bat speed. The ball jumps off the bat. He can go out of the ballpark to any part of the yard.”

Thomas’ power tool initially intrigued the A’s while on the scouting trail. He was chasing the NCAA Division I home run crown as a junior with 17 homers over his first 42 games before a torn labrum prematurely ended his season. Despite the injury, the A’s had no concerns taking Thomas in the Draft later that summer.

His production thus far is showing why.

“He was one of the players of the year in our org last year,” said A’s director of player development Ed Sprague. “Power. Compact stroke. Opposite-field gap power is really there. He’s a solid outfielder who can run. I don’t think he’s even tapped into what kind of power he has yet. I expect more good things out of him.”

As is the case with most young players, Thomas is still working to cut down on strikeouts and gain better overall control of the strike zone. But given how aggressively the A’s have pushed him through the system to this point, Thomas might be on a fast track to the Majors if he can keep up this type of production. He’s certainly catching the attention of A’s manager Mark Kotsay, who last week mentioned Thomas amongst a group of prospects whose performance he’s been impressed by while checking up on the Minor League side.

“When all gets said and done,” Fuson said, “he’s got a chance to come with some real star power.”

Here’s a roundup of some other notable performances throughout the A’s system:

Triple-A Las Vegas
After leaving a good impression in big league camp this spring, shortstop (A’s No. 7 prospect) is off to a strong start for the Aviators, hitting .288 with a .883 OPS, two homers, five doubles and 10 RBIs through his first 15 games. While this is Muncy’s first season playing above Double-A, the 21-year-old’s vast improvements at the plate last season could very well have him in line to reach the big leagues at some point this season.

“He’s very young still,” Fuson said of Muncy. “Growing pains are still there as far as developing consistency to his talents. He makes some throwing errors from time to time. There’s a swing-and-miss element in there that we continue to work on, but he’s competed very well. He’s not that far away from getting his opportunity up there.”

High-A Lansing
Outfielder slugged his third homer of the season as part of a 2-for-5 day for the Lugnuts on Friday.

Single-A Stockton
Will Johnston began his season by striking out 15 of his first 22 batters faced. In three outings for the Ports, the left-hander holds a 2.45 ERA with 20 strikeouts and eight walks across 11 innings pitched.