Danny Knobler reported at MLive today Tigers manager Jim Leyland has taken renewed interest in outfielder Clete Thomas — so much so that he recalled him from minor league camp to take a few more looks. When that happens, I tend to want to take a closer look at a player’s stats myself. (Also, Lee at Tiger Tales reviewed Thomas, if you want a second opinion).
Thomas bats left, but throws right. A 2005 sixth-round draftee, Thomas worked his way up from rookie ball Oneata to low A ball. He spent 2006 in Lakeland and 2007 in Erie. Lee found out Thomas is a good outfielder with an excellent arm.
Lee also found out Thomas has good gap power but strikes out too much and struggles with breaking pitches. Thomas’ most recently had a .280 average, .359 on-base percentage and .404 slugging in Erie. (His OPS in Lakeland was .697). I’ll add to that there’s some other things in his minor league numbers to be concerned about. Thomas strikes out in nearly 20% of his plate appearances whiles walking in about 10%. He also has a pretty high batting average on balls in play. I am not an expert on what’s normal in the minors, but I would have to guess a career that his seen his numbers range from .328 on the low side to .350 on the high side (.448 if you count his limited time in rookie ball) is just asking to come back to earth should he reach the majors. On the basepath, he had 33 steals in Lakeland and 18 in Erie.
In all likelyhood, Thomas will spend most of his season in Toledo this year, unless Leyland sees a bit of Brent Clevlen in the young outfielder and keeps him over Freddy Guzman. But Guzman is out of options and provides some extra flexibility on the basepaths. He’s a bit more experienced, as well. So I think he’s a Tiger until Curtis Granderson returns from his broken finger in two-to-four weeks.
Should Leyland take Thomas to Detroit instead, you can probably expect the manager to use him as a late-innings defensive replacement. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and it sounds like Leyland could probably feel confident putting him into the game with a decent lead considering that Tigers lineup should be fine even if you take one of its powerful bats out in the 8th or 9th inning.