Pittsburgh Pirates: Prospect to Watch at Every Position in 2021
By Noah Wright
Starting Pitcher: Tahnaj Thomas
When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff for Erik Gonzalez and two prospects, one of which was right-hander Tahnaj Thomas, in the 2018-2019 offseason, many overlooked the trade as a small move for both teams. However, now in the 2020-2021 offseason, Thomas looks like he could be a fantastic pitcher at the MLB level.
Throughout his first two years in the Indians’ farm system, Thomas struggled with his ability to control the ball coming out of his hand. In 58.1 innings and facing 261 batters, Thomas walked 43 for a 16.5% walk rate. He did show some strong strikeout numbers, getting 33.8% of the batters he faced in 2018 down on strike three. He also had a solid HR/9 of 0.93. Overall, he only had a 5.25 ERA and 4.77 FIP.
Following the trade to Pittsburgh, Thomas started his career with his new team at Bristol Rookie-Ball. He tossed 48.1 innings while showing greatly improved control, walking just 7% of the batters he faced. His strikeout rate didn’t suffer though as he had a strikeout rate of 29.5%. Through his first season with the Bucs, he had a 3.17 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 1.11 WHIP and 4.21 K/BB ratio, all of which are single season career bests. He also had a solid 3.49 xFIP.
Thomas’ best pitch is his fastball. It has a 70 grade because he can run it upwards of 100 MPH. While he can consistently touch 100 MPH, he averages out in the 93-98 MPH range. However, he has a great breaking pitch to go along with his power fastball. Different sources see different pitches. FanGraphs gives him a 60-future grade curveball while MLB Pipeline sees a 55 grade slider. Regardless, he has a plus breaking ball. He also is working on a third pitch, that being a change-up. While it is currently seen as a below average offering, it has a future grade of 50 on FanGraphs. Plus he’s only entering his age-22 season and given his talent, he could easily improve upon it.
Thomas has yet to throw more than 50 innings at any level yet. He’s shown improvement over his last two professional seasons and has the talent to keep improving. Currently, Thomas has an ETA of 2022 which is a very possible target if he stays healthy and continues to build off his last few seasons.