During the 2023 season, relief pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas should be in position to make his MLB debut with the Pirates as he looks to lock down a long-term bullpen role with the club
Entering the 2023 season the bullpen will be a question mark for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Outside of David Bednar and Jarlín García, there is little proven talent in the team's projected Opening Day bullpen. However, as the season goes on, it is a group that could improve.
One big way the bullpen could improve as the season progresses is through the growht of young bullpen arms such as Colin Holderman, Yerry De Los Santos, and Robert Stephenson. Another way the bullpen can see strides be made as the season goes on is through the addition of young relief arms from the minor leagues.
One of these minor league arms could be 23-year-old right-handed reliever Tahnaj Thomas. Thomas is coming off a strong season with Double-A Altoona, and has put himself in position to make his MLB debut during the 2023 season.
At one time Thomas was a top-100 starting pitching prospect. The Bahamas native came to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Erik González and Dante Mendoza in exchange for Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff following the 2018 season.
While the prospect star shine of Thomas has faded in recent years, largely due to control issues and struggling to develop a third pitch, he still has the tools to be a very good MLB relief pitcher. In 2023, he should be given the opportunity to begin to show that.
Thomas made 37 appearnaces for the Curve last season. He pitched 50.2 innings, posting a 3.02 ERA, 3.63 FIP, and he allowed just four home runs (0.71 HR/9). His 9.4% walk rate was very encouraging, as it was his lowest since 2019 and the second lowest of his professional career. The improved control was paired with a 24.4% strikeout rate, which was a 2% uptick from 2021.
The young righty throws a power fastball that moves well. His slider also has the potential to be a plus pitch at the major league level. FanGraphs gives his fastball a future value (FV) of 60 while his slider has a FV of 45.
Thomas also throws a changeup. However, the changeup remains a work in progress. Lack of sufficient progression from a third pitch is a big reason why Thomas is now viewed as a relief pitching prospect.
When the 2023 season begins Thomas will be in the minors, but it is not unreasonable to think he could begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis. Thomas is not currently on the 40-man roster, which could keep him in the minors a bit longer than would otherwise happen, but making room for Thomas on the 40-man roster when the Pittsburgh Pirates determine he is ready for the majors would not be difficult to do.
If Thomas begins the season by continuing to pitch the way he did during the 2022 season then he firmly put himself in a position to make an impact in the majors by the early summer, if not sooner. Watch for Thomas to be a pitcher who emerges for the Pirates as a quality bullpen arm this season.