Hard throwing Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas has seemingly made a successful to the bullpen in 2022
In the 2018-2019 offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a relatively small trade acquiring shortstop Erik González and pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas for Max Moroff and Jordan Luplow. Although 47 of Thomas’s first 52 appearances were as a starting pitcher, many saw him eventually transitioning to the bullpen.
Thomas has a big fastball, one that sat in the mid-90s as a starter and could reach triple-digits. However, his slider was solid at best, and his change-up was far from a reliable offering. Like most big, hard-throwing pitching prospects, Thomas struggled with command. After struggling at Greensboro in 2021, the Pirates put Thomas in the bullpen to start 2022, but has he made a successful transition to relieving rather than starting?
Now his 3.44 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP through 34 innings of work aren’t going to wow anyone. For a guy with an upper-90s four-seamer, you’d like to see more swings and misses than what a 22.8% strikeout rate produces. Thomas has a quality 0.79 HR/9 rate, but his 9.7% walk rate doesn’t mix well with his sub-par strikeout rate.
However, in Thomas’ defense, he’s looked a whole lot better since the start of summer. Dating back to June 1st, Thomas has pitched 19.2 innings, posting a strong 1.83 ERA, 2.48 FIP, and 0.97 WHIP. He’s improved every peripheral statistic as well, striking out 28.9% of batters faced, cutting his BB% down to just 5.3%, and improving his HR/9 to a mere 0.46. Throughout most of these last 19.2 innings, he’s served as a set-up man to stand out southpaw Tyler Samaniego.
Thomas has looked the part of a late-inning arm for years now and now looks to be performing like one as well. If he continues to perform like this, we may see him at least make his MLB debut at the end of the year. If he can live up to his potential, Thomas could be a late-inning force to be reckoned with, alongside the likes of David Bednar, Wil Crowe, Yerry De Los Santos, and Duane Underwood Jr.