Alek Thomas Shows A Professional Approach
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Alek Thomas was familiar with the professional lifestyle long before the Diamondbacks selected him with their second-round pick this year. His father, Allen, is a strength and conditioning coach with the White Sox, and played two professional seasons with the club as well.
Allen Thomas’ manager when he played for low Class A Hickory was Chris Cron, who now serves as the Diamondbacks’ minor league hitting coordinator. Although they’ve only been working together since this summer, Cron can easily see the professional influence when he works with Alek.
“Super, super kid. I’m a big fan of the family,” Cron said. “Advanced, advanced hitter. You can tell he’s been around the game because of his dad. He just has that maturity about him that most 18-year-olds don’t have. His approach at the plate is very easy, and you can tell he’s got a lot of confidence.”
Alek Thomas played his amateur ball at Chicago’s Mount Carmel HS, where his strong senior season earned him a first-team nod as a BA High School All-American. He signed with the D-backs for an above-slot bonus of $1.2 million to keep him from his commitment to Texas Christian.
The smashing spring carried over into the summer, when he hit .333/.395/.463 with 14 doubles, six triples, two home runs and 12 stolen bases between the Rookie-level Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.
“He has a lot of movements with his swing,” Cron said, “but he’s able to sync them up and make positive things come out of it with his results. … He finds a way to get the barrel to the ball. He may not square everything up like it’s a line drive, but he’ll foul balls off and just (has) the ability to control the zone and not really swing too much outside of the zone.
“He’s really ready to do damage on his pitch. And when he does find his pitch, he usually finds the barrel.”
Thomas showed those skills on Monday in an instructional league game against the A’s when he manipulated the barrel quickly and with enough authority to turn a well-placed 92 mph fastball at his knees into center field for a single. He also showed excellent jumps and straight-line speed in center field.
Even though this is first actual taste of life as a professional, Alek acknowledges that much of his childhood was spent preparing him for his transition into the grind of the minor leagues. He watched countless White Sox players go through the same thing each spring and summer, so he knew what was coming when he signed his first contract.
“I think I’ve lived sort of a professional life from being with my dad for the past however long he’s been in the game,” Alek said. “It’s not too different. Being a player is obviously different, but having my own locker is pretty much the only thing that’s different, so there’s not really too much that stands out.”
Given his dad’s role as a strength and conditioning coordinator, Alek Thomas also has a leg up on the important aspects of the game that happen away from the field. He’s learned since he was very young about the importance of proper nutrition as it pertains to keeping yourself ready for the long days, weeks and months that make up a baseball season.
“I definitely have the advantage of knowing how to take care of my body,” he said. “Having a dad like that is obviously going to help you be more cognizant of (what you need to do). It’s just trying to get your body ready, trying to get a warmup in, that kind of stuff. I definitely have the upper hand, I think.”
Back home in Chicago, Alek Thomas has plenty of memorabilia from his years spent around the White Sox, including autographs from Hall of Famers like Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Thome. Now that he’s a Diamondback, though, he’s hoping to start filling his shelves with bits and pieces from his own professional career.
Although he didn’t get to swing the bat, Diamondbacks shortstop prospect Geraldo Perdomo showed bits and pieces of the skills that have helped him rise up the team’s talent rankings. Part of his job this instructional league involves working on his bunting, so he laid one down in each of his three trips to the plate on Monday.
None of his attempts turned into a hit, but he still showed sub-4.00 second times to first base (albeit on jailbreaks). In the field, he displayed smooth actions and a well above-average if not double-plus throwing arm.
Perdomo hit .322/.438/.460 across three levels in 2018, and racked up just five more strikeouts (44) than walks (39). Although his full offensive potential clearly wasn’t to be seen on Monday, the Diamondbacks have high hopes for the 18-year-old.
“Perdomo’s one of those kids who absolutely loves to play the game,” Cron said. “He takes ‘You’ve got to work hard’ to another level. He just can’t get enough of the extra work. I think all the work that he’s put in is absolutely going to pay dividends.
We’ve seen big strides in his development at an early age. We’re talking about two 18-year-olds (with Thomas included) who are way ahead of the curve. We’re just going to continue to let him step in that box and continue to get reps at shortstop, second base, whatever position he’s playing and continue to get the feel of the game, and the game’s going to continue to teach him things because of all the extra stuff he’s doing, all the extra work.”
The Diamondbacks began Monday's game by throwing three talented, low-level right-handers—Matt Tabor, Marcos Tineo and Luis Frias—over the first three innings.
Tabor, the team's third-rounder in 2017 out of Milton (Mass.) Academy, showed a strong three-pitch mix during his inning. His low-90s fastball touched as high as 94 mph and showed heavy sink. He paired with a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup. He used the latter pitch to record both of his swinging strikeouts.
The slider is his third pitch at the moment, but it also showed sharp bite in on the feet of lefthanded hitters and garnered swings and misses during his brief outing.
Tineo, who topped out this season at Rookie-level Missoula, followed Tabor and racked up two strikeouts as well. He got one whiff swinging and another looking, but both came on his 12-to-6 curveball, which he threw in the mid 70s.
The pitch backed up a low-90s fastball with a small wrinkle at the end.
Frias was the third man in, and he also finished with a pair of Ks on a powerful, tight-spinning curveball. His breaker buttressed a heavy 93-95 mph fastball and a sinking changeup in the high 80s.