RHP Tahnaj Thomas
Tahnaj Thomas entered 2022 as a make-or-break candidate. A right-hander with lots of raw talent, Thomas followed up a quality 2019 season with a weak 2021 campaign. He pitched a total of 48.1 innings for Greensboro, posting a 5.19 ERA, 6.49 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP. Thomas saw his strikeout rate plummet to 22.1% while walking 12.5% of the batters he faced. However, the biggest red flag was his 1.93 HR/9 rate. It’s not as if he was getting unlucky with flyballs, either. xFIP, which normalizes a pitcher’s HR/FB ratio to project their FIP, pinned him at 5.80.
Regardless, Thomas was still given the chance to take on Double-A batters, and he succeeded. Thomas started just one game all year, moving to a full-time bullpen role. He pitched 50.2 innings posting a 3.02 ERA, 3.63 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. He reduced his home run rate by well over half to just .71 HR/9 while significantly reducing the walks. He had just a 9.4% BB% and saw his K% rise to 24.4%.
But Thomas really settled into a late-inning, high-leverage role in the second half. Thomas pitched 16.2 innings down the stretch, allowing just four earned runs. Thomas let up one long ball while striking out 27.9% of the batters he faced. Another positive was his 8.8% walk rate. Thomas posted a WHIP of just 1.14 and a FIP of 2.99. It’s not as if it took until mid-June for Thomas to figure it out, either. He had a 1.98 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP from June through the end of the season.
Thomas works with a big fastball that averages out in the mid-to-high-90s. He has previously touched triple digits, but his velo has seen a slight decrease. Thomas also throws a decent slider. The issue with Thomas as a starting pitcher was that he lacked a quality third offering. He occasionally throws a change-up; however, it’s a distant third offering.
With Thomas fully embracing a relief role, we could see him in the major leagues sometime next season. The right-hander is Rule 5 eligible, and the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t about to let him go for nothing. He’d almost assuredly be claimed in the Rule 5 Draft. At 23-years-old, he’s well on his way to potentially becoming a high-leverage arm for the big league club.